Forests: Spruce beetles spreading fast in southern Rockies

State report details status of insect activities

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Spruce beetles are widely active across the mountains of southern Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Windstorms, mild winters and drought are the key factors in the continued spread of spruce beetles, which have become the dominant change agent in Colorado forests the past few years.

According to the latest annual forest health report compiled by state forest experts, spruce beetles were active across 398,000 acres in 2013, affected more than triple the amount of acreage than mountain pine beetles. Continue reading

Environment: Ambitious Swan River restoration project near Breckenridge could benefit cutthroat trout

Forest Service wants to reconnect an aquatic ecosystem that was sliced apart by dredges in the mining era

Restoration plans are afoot for a degraded section of the Swan River, in Summit County, Colorado.

Restoration plans are afoot for a degraded section of the Swan River, in Summit County, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For all the gold Summit County’s old-timers managed to pull from local mountains and rivers, they left behind quite a mess. Along with toxic pollution oozing into rivers from some abandoned mines, other streams were turned completely inside-out, buried under tons of gravel.

That includes the Swan River, near Breckenridge, where the U.S. Forest Service now hopes to reverse some of the damage with an ambitious five- to 10-year restoration project.

The Forest Service aims to recreate of two miles of stream, riparian, and restore uplands that were all destroyed by the dredge boats. The agency also wants to decommission some roads in the area, build a new road and trail, all within a mix ownership of private, county, town, and national forest lands. Another element of the project would create fish barriers to protect populations of cutthroat trout. Continue reading

Colorado eyes spending plan for pot revenues

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed a spending plan for tax revenues generated by marijuana sales.

Youth prevention a key focus

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wants the biggest slice of the marijuana revenue pie to go toward youth marijuana use prevention and deterrence, with $45 million (including $7 million matching federal funds) earmarked for those programs in Fiscal Year 2014-2015.

Hickenlooper this week released a proposed spending plan for revenues collected as a result of Proposition AA, which voters approved last fall to establish excise and sales taxes on adult-use marijuana. Continue reading

Colorado: East Vail snow slide kills one skier

Forecasters warn of persistent avalanche danger

FRISCO — Skiing the East Vail chutes when the avalanche danger is rated as considerable is a dangerous game of Russian Roulette. After numerous close calls in the area the past few weeks, a backcountry skier died in a snowslide on Monday, January 7. It is the second avalanche death in Colorado this season. The first occurred Dec. 31 on Parkview Mountain, west of Willow Creek Pass.

Outsideonline.com is reporting that the victim was 24-year-old Tony Seibert, the grandson of Vail co-founder Pete Seibert. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center confirmed the East Vail Chutes death, but the CAIC website offered few details on the deadly incident. The center’s avalanche experts will visit the site Jan. 8 to investigate the accident. Continue reading

Climate: Colorado snowpack tracking near average

Above-average precipitation in October and November give state a headstart to the runoff season

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Colorado snowpack is tracking very near average for the winter so far.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The snowpack in nearly every river basin in Colorado is at or above normal, federal watchers said this week.

This year’s January 1 snowpack readings are at 103 percent of median statewide, according to Phyllis Ann Philipps, State Conservationist with the NRCS.

“This is a great start to the 2014 water year. As we saw in 2012 and 2013, early seasons deficits are difficult to make up later in the season … so being right where we should be this time of year gives us a head start compared to the past couple of years,” Philipps said. Continue reading

Arapahoe Basin moving ahead with Beavers expansion

Open house set for Dec. 3

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Arapahoe Basin is moving ahead with an expansion plan that would add more than 400 acres of terrain in the Beavers area.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Arapahoe Basin and the U.S. Forest Service are moving ahead with the first formal step in the review process for a significant expansion at Summit County’s oldest ski area.

Adding a lift the Beavers area, west of existing lift-served terrain at the area, would mitigate public safety issues and enhance A-Basin’s reputation as a destination for advanced skiers, the Forest Service said in its scoping notice for the plan. Altogether, the Beavers expansion would add about 430 acres, including 125 acres of tree skiing.

The ski area also wants to expand its reservoir for snowmaking water, add a short surface lift to ease access to Montezuma Bowl and replace the Molly Hogan lift in the beginner area, as well as remove the seldom-used Norway chair and plan for potential zip line installations to enhance summer recreation. Continue reading

Summit County eyes winter road closures

New rules would mesh with management of national forest lands

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Summit County officials are considering a request to close parts of several local roads, including Baldy Mountain Road, to winter motorized recreational traffic. Maps of the other roads are online at the Summit County planning department website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Summit County officials will take input on a request to ban winter motorized recreation on three county roads:

  • Gold Run Gulch Road/CR 300 (from the Gold Run Trailhead on the north to the intersection with CR 456 on the south)
  • Baldy Road/CR 520 (from the Baldy Trailhead at Emmet Lode/CR 536 to the road’s terminus on Baldy Mountain)
  • Boreas Pass Road/CR 10 (from the Boreas Pass Trailhead to Boreas Pass)

An open house on the request is set for Nov. 19, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the BOCC Hearing Room at the County Courthouse in Breckenridge. More detailed project information and maps will be available at the open house and can also be found on the Special Projects section of the Summit County Community Development website at: http://www.co.summit.co.us/index.aspx?NID=837. Continue reading

Morning photo: Morning glory

Mountain high …

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Gore Range at sunrise.

FRISCO —For a change, I dipped back into the archives to grab a few of my favorite mountain shots from last winter, as much to inspire myself as anything else. Usually when I finish a photo session, there are a couple of things nagging in the back of my mind. I’m not the most methodical person, so often I find myself thinking, “Oh, I should have adjusted by ISO — that way I could have stopped down the lens for better depth of field. If I have time, I’m getting better at shooting a full range of exposures to edit. It’s amazing how much different a few hundredths of a second or one F-stop can make. Pulling last year’s pictures is a good way to remind myself of the things I wanted to try in the quest for better images! Continue reading

Summit County: Forest Service releases revised plan for 21-mile motorized trail system on Tenderfoot Mountain

Community task force finds common ground on contentious proposal

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The Forest Service says there’s room for 13 miles of new motorized trails on Tenderfoot Mountain, despite the fact that the agency can’t adequately maintain existing trails.

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A family outing near the Dillon Cemetery.

By Bob Berwyn

*Previous Summit Voice stories on the Tenderfoot motorized trail proposal are online here.

FRISCO — Critics are likely to say it’s like putting lipstick on a pig, but the U.S. Forest Service claims its latest version of a plan for a motorized trail on Tenderfoot Mountain, near Dillon, will result in a managed, finite system of sustainable trails to replacing the existing spaghetti network of illegal trails in the area.

The agency this week released a revised environmental study for the controversial trail system, which has been hotly debated for the past several years. According to the Forest Service, the new proposed action represents numerous compromises that were made to mitigate environmental and social concerns. Continue reading

Health: Self-employed Summit County residents facing higher insurance costs under state-administered insurance system

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A state map shows the different areas for rating insurance costs in Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis seeks readjustment of rating area boundaries

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Access to health insurance may become a reality for many under the Affordable Care Act, but other residents of the Colorado high country are frustrated by the changes, which could result in higher premiums and less choice for people who are self-employed.

“It’s a huge problem for Summit County … it’s a major barrier to implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Summit County,” said Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat who represents Summit County.

“Summit County has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the State,” said Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic. “Many people have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families. It is worrisome and disappointing that rates in our area may be priced beyond our residents’ ability to pay. We are hopeful that something can be done to make products on the exchange more accessible,” Vaine said. Continue reading

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