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White River National Forest updates oil and gas plan

74,000 acres in roadless areas still open to fossil fuel development with a no surface occupation stipulation

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Most oil and gas development on the White River National Forest is limited to the far western zones in areas where drilling is already common.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The White River National Forest wants to open up nearly 200,000 acres for oil and gas drilling leases, including 74,000 acres in designated roadless areas where there would be restrictions on surface activities.

The long-awaited update to the forest’s oil and gas leasing map were released this week by the agency in a final environmental impact study and a draft record of decision, subject to a 60-day objection period. The final EIS is online here.

WRNF supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said he chose a “conservation-minded” option that prioritizes recreational and natural resources values over energy development across most of the forest. Most of the lands open for leasing follow the pattern of recent energy development in areas with high potential for fossil fuel development.

“Over one million acres of the White River National Forest are not geologically conducive for natural gas production, and another 800,000 acres are legally withdrawn. In addition, I have decided to close 213,000 acres of the White River National Forest to leasing in order to protect and maintain the natural character of these areas and protect important wildlife habitat,” Fitzwilliams said. Continue reading

Morning Photo: December light

Subtle …

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The low sun angle highlights every grain of snow covering this scruffy meadow in Frisco.

FRISCO — Exceptional light rules in mid-December. The sun has dropped to nearly its lowest point in its path across the sky, so that, even a couple of hours after sunrise, it lingers, barely above the southeastern horizon. Often, layers of thin low- and mid-level clouds diffuse the light even more, creating a wintry glow in the snowy landscapes of Colorado. Check out our daily photo feed on Instagram and visit our Fine Art America online gallery for more landscape shots from Colorado. Continue reading

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Breckenridge voters reject Main Street marijuana sales

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No buds on Main Street, Breckenridge.

Status quo in Colorado resort town, as voters say no to Main Street pot sales by 2-1 margin

Staff Report

FRISCO — Breckenridge locals and tourists won’t be able to refresh their stash of legal weed on Main Street. Town voters decided in a special mail-in ballot election this week that they’d rather see retail marijuana sales limited to outskirts of town.

The non-binding vote will guide the town council in developing any new retail marijuana ordinances. And even though it was only an advisory vote, turnout was big. More than 1,300 voters (44 percent) cast ballots, more than in the last town council election. In a release, the town said 925 people voted against allowing retail pot sales on Main Street, with 400 people voting yes. Continue reading

Colorado fracking task force set to meet in Rifle

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Roads and fracking pads spiderweb across the wild landscapes of western Colorado and eastern Utah, as seem from a commercial airliner. bberwyn photo.

Audio from meeting to stream live on the web

Staff Report

FRISCO — A 21-member Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force meets again in Rifle this week, with the agenda including a discussion of health impacts to people in gas patch communities.

Questions about health impacts surfaced again last week as a major new review of scientific studies spurred leading experts to say there are reasons for concern. Many of the toxic chemicals used in the fossil fuel industry are known to disrupt basic body chemistry. Continue reading

U.S. November temps well below average

Snow cover extent largest on record for any November

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A year-to-date temperature ranking map shows the split between east and west.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Last month was the chilliest November across the U.S. since 2000, federal climate trackers said today in the latest monthly update from the National Climatic Data Center.

The average temperature across the lower 48 states was 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit below the 20th century average, making it 16th-coldest November on record. Numerous states, from North Dakota southeast all the way to Georgia, reported near-record cold readings. No state was record cold, but Alabama and Mississippi each had their second coldest November.

Average temperatures in New England and across the Intermountain West, with California, Nevada and Arizona tallying above-average readings, along with Alaska, which reported its fifth-warmest November on record. Continue reading

Morning photo: Frozen!

Winter glory

Frozen fountain.

Frozen fountain.

FRISCO — OK, so it hasn’t exactly been hardcore winter around here the past few days. After that big mid-November snow, things warmed up pretty dramatically, which means I had to reach back into the archives to compile this set of winter images, a reminder of different each year can be when it comes to weather. But I wanted to highlight a few shots that speak to the season in all its frozen glory. Check out our daily photo feed on Instagram and visit our Fine Art America online gallery for more landscape shots from Colorado. Continue reading

Climate: Skiers rally to support EPA Clean Power Plan

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Powder is in peril, so skiers and ski areas are rallying to support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Numerous resorts sign on to letter calling for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions

Staff Report

FRISCO — With so much at stake around the world, it seems almost frivolous to talk about how global warming might affect the ski industry. But in some parts of the world, skiing is central to the culture of mountain communities, so it’s not surprising that skiers and their allies are rallying to support the EPA proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

As the comment period on the agency’s Clean Power Plan closed, more than 115 snow and mountain supporters across the country including ski areas, local businesses, professional winter sports athletes, local governments, and organizations signed letters supporting the plan. Continue reading

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