Copper Mountain eyes alpine coaster amusement ride

More snowmaking, bike trails to be studied by Forest Service

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More recreation developments proposed for Copper Mountain.

Staff Report

Citing a lack of recreational opportunities at Copper Mountain, the U.S. Forest Service has launched an early comment period for proposed new developments at the Summit County resort, including an alpine coaster ride on the front side of the mountain, increased snowmaking and new mountain bike trails.

“These projects will help connect people to their National Forest while at the same time improving the year-round guest experience at Copper Mountain Resort,” said U.S. Forest Service Dillon District Ranger Bill Jackson. “In particular, we are excited about the additional snowmaking coverage on the West Encore and Collage trails which will allow the U.S. Ski Team additional early-season training opportunities.” Continue reading

Wildlife: Wintry weather to take toll on Colorado mule deer

Mule deer enjoying an abundance of January forage as a sustained warm spell has melted low-elevation snowpack in Colorado.

Last year, mild winter conditions eased foraging conditions for ungulates, but this year’s cold temps and deep snow could result in increase mortality. @bberwyn photo.

‘Wildlife has been experiencing and surviving severe weather for eons without human intervention’

Staff Report

Harsh winter conditions in northwestern Colorado may take a toll on already struggling mule deer herds, state biologists said last week, explaining that they’ve started a limited feeding program to try and keep ungulates from invading cattle grazing areas.

The recent storms have created conditions ranking among the most extreme in the past 35 years. Temperatures dropping well below zero and deep powder snow atop brittle crusts are making it harder for deer and elk to forage and could lead to increased wildlife mortality in portions of the region unless the weather moderates significantly, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Continue reading

Forest Service releases draft study for A-Basin expansion

Public comment sought on draft EIS

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Staff Report

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is one step closer to gaining final approval for a 492-acre expansion that would include a new lift in the Beavers area. The ski area plan also calls for replacing Pallavicini chairlift, removing the Norway chairlift and adding a surface lift to ferry skiers and snowboarders to the popular backside Montezuma Bowl terrain.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service released a draft environmental study for the planned projects. The agency will take public comments on the draft EIS through March 21. More information is online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=41664. A public meeting on the draft Eis will be held at The Keystone Center (1628 St John Rd., Dillon, CO 80435) on March 2, 2016 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

In a cover letter released with the draft study, White River National Forest Supervisor said he is currently evaluating the recreational benefits of these projects against the identified resource impacts these project may create. Continue reading

Twin storms boost Colorado’s January snowpack

Entire state blanketed with snow in early Feburary

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Mid-winter, and nearly all of Colorado has snow on the ground.

Staff Report

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Snowpack is at or above average in all of Colorado’s river basins.

A pair of storms that bookended January helped raise the statewide snowpack level to 111 percent of average as of Feb. 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Survey.

Satellite images and other remote sensors operation by NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center storms left nearly the entire state blanketed in snow. Without those two storms, January snowfall would only have been about 70 percent of average for the month, said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey supervisor with the NRCS.

Snowfall continued through February 3, which increased snowpack totals to as high as 117 percent of normal as of Feb 4. The mountains of Southern Colorado saw the greatest increase in snow-water equivalent. From January 28 to February 3. total snowpack depth increased as much as 30 inches at the Cumbres Trestle SNOTEL in the San Juan Mountain range.

As of February 1, the snowpack was below average in only a handful of minor watersheds. All other drainages were above to well above normal. While the late January storms benefitted the entire state, January precipitation as a whole was particularly slim in the Arkansas and Upper Rio Grande basins and storms only amounted to about 75 percent of normal monthly snowpack accumulation.

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Increase in Vail-area mountain lion sightings may be caused by humans feeding other wildlife

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Mountain lions are roaming through residential areas around Vail. Photo courtesy CPW.

‘We have lions in the area, and in fact, they have been here for quite some time with very few incidents …’

Staff Report

Colorado wildlife managers say recent sightings of mountain lions around Vail may be the result of humans feeding prey animals, especially foxes. A string of recent lion sightings have a common thread, according to long-time district wildlife manager Bill Andree.

At each location where lion conflicts have been reported, there have also been red foxes present. Andree said it’s possible that people are feeding foxes or allowing trash and other attractants to be available. That can be a major catalyst for serious interactions with mountain lions, he cautioned.

This week, a man walking his dog near Buffehr Creek Road north of Interstate 70 in Vail told wildlife officers that he witnessed his pet come nose to nose with a lion. The dog was not injured in the incident. Less than a mile away, a woman reported that her dog remains missing and although not yet confirmed, evidence indicates a predator may be responsible for its disappearance. Continue reading

Colorado lawmakers want to beef up state climate plan

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Global temperatures are rising inexorably. A state climate plan with teeth could ensure that Colorado is doing its part to meet the goals of the 2015 climate agreement reached at the COP21 talks in Paris.

Proposed House Bill 1004 would require state to set measurable targets and report progress annually to lawmakers

By Bob Berwyn

Colorado climate activists and their allies in the State Legislature want to add some teeth to a climate plan released last year by the Hickenlooper administration. The plan acknowledges the impacts and establishes a vague framework for addressing global warming in Colorado, but was criticized for lacking measurable targets.

2015 was by far the hottest year on record for the globe, breaking the record set in 2014. It was the third-warmest year on record for Colorado. The year also saw a modern record set for wildfires, as well as the most widespread bloom of toxin-producing algae ever recorded along the West Coast. In Colorado, scientists recently reported on finding extreme climate change impacts in the state’s alpine zone. Continue reading

Federal judge orders Forest Service to turn over more documents related to controversial Wolf Creek development

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Court battles have slowed a proposed development project near Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.

Agency may be lagging in turning over documents requested under Freedom of Information Act

By Bob Berwyn

The U.S. Forest Service must try to dig up more documents related to the controversial Wolf Creek Village development proposal, a federal judge ruled this week.

U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez ordered the agency to once again scour its files for emails, memos and other records that have been requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Community activists and public lands watchdog groups want to examine the paper trail because they believe that environmental studies for the development were tainted by political influence. Continue reading

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