Skiing: A-Basin moving ahead with master plan

Ski area, Forest Service to host Oct. 3 field session to provide overview of planned improvements at Summit County’s oldest ski area

A map of A-Basin's proposed upgrades presented last year.

A map of A-Basin’s proposed upgrades presented last year.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service officials say they’ve accepted Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s proposal to begin implementing pieces of a master plan that was updated last winter, including a new lift in the Beavers area, a short surface lift to improve access to Montezuma Bowl, and increased water storage for snowmaking.

The new lift in the Beavers area, to the west of the ski area’s current operational boundary, would serve about 400 acres of terrain.

“Two or so trails would be cleared while the majority would be gladed. The proposal calls for a four-person lift that would gain 1,500’ in elevation,” said Forest Service snow ranger Shelly Grail. “The proposed reservoir expansion is still being fine-tuned.  It’s final proposal location will  be determined after more wetland delineation work and feedback from the Army Corps of Engineers,” Grail said. Continue reading

Morning photo: Wet!

September showers

Rainy days ...

Rainy days …

FRISCO —Had enough yet? I actually haven’t heard too many complaints about the rain, except maybe from a few pesky tourists (just kidding, we love you) who would rather be high and dry. But the the persistently warm and moist conditions do seem a bit unusual and seem to have slowed the progress of the annual leaf-changing spectacle. Scientists say it’s mostly the length of the day that affects fall colors, but temps and moisture must also be a factor. Last year by Sept. 12 there was lots of color …

Sept. 13, 2012.

Sept. 12, 2012.

Continue reading

Summit Voice: Weekly recap

Colorado mule deer.

Colorado mule deer.

Environmental news from Colorado and the world

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A busy week of writing news, including a cool story for MSN News about how the USGS and partner scientists at the Oregon Zoo are using smartphone technology to track polar bears.

And after several years of writing about the pollinator crisis, and expecially the decline in honey bees, it was great to see the story go mainstream with Time cover story. I also wrote a short related for MSN News about how systemic pesticides have been found in common garden store ornamental plants used by backyard gardeners.

For Summit Voice, my week started by pondering why on Earth an aquarium would even consider keeping marine mammals in captivity: Feds deny aquarium request for beluga whales.

One of the more interesting climate stories was about how the amplitude of the carbon cycle has intensified as plants cope with more CO2 in the atmosphere: Global warming: Earth is breathing more deeply these days.

We also posted our summary of the monthly NOAA U.S. climate analysis, with links back to the full report: Climate: Average U.S. temp above average for July.

This story on bees in Scotland was the big social media hit of the week, with scores of retweets on Twitter and Facebook likes, as the buzz about bees makes waves throughout the web: UK beekeepers report widespread loss of colonies.

Plenty more cautionary climate tales (that’s why they call us alarmists):

And some other stuff:

Summit Voice environmental photography:

Summit Voice photography:

July precip above average in Summit County

Monsoon delivers plentiful rainfall

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Monsoon rains brought above-average moisture to Summit County in July.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — July brought above-average moisture to both official National Weather Service sites in Summit County, especially in Dillon, where the monsoon delivered 3.35 inches of water, about 1.47 inches more than average for the month.

At least a trace of precipitation was reported on all but seven days at the Dillon weather observation station, with the wettest days on July 25 and July 26, both delivering about a half inch of moisture.

The average daily maximum temperature at Dillon during July was 74.4 degrees, just .10 above average, but the daily average low temperature was 39.8 degrees, nearly 4 degrees above average, probably due in part to plentiful nighttime cloud cover. Continue reading

Forest Service close to releasing environmental study for proposed new backcountry ski hut near Breckenridge

Public review session set for Aug. 22 at Breckenridge ice rink

Weber Gulch Hut

The Weber Gulch Hut is proposed for the north flank of Baldy Mountain, near Breckenridge, Colorado. Map courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The long range vision for encircling Summit County with a network of backcountry ski huts may come into a little more focus this month.

The White River National Forest is preparing to release a draft environmental study for the proposed Weber Gulch hut during the next few weeks, with a public review of the document set for Aug. 22 (5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m) at the Breckenridge ice rink. Continue reading

Colorado wilderness bills bottled up in Congress

Half a dozen proposals for land protection span more than 1 million acres

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Proposed new wilderness areas include open meadows on the west flank of the Williams Fork Range. bberwyn photo.

acorn creek

The proposed Acorn Creek wilderness addition would add important wildlife habitat to the existing high-elevation Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area.

By Bob Berwyn

*Click here to learn more about this weekend’s hike in proposed new Summit County wilderness area

SUMMIT COUNTY — There may be a huge backlog of wilderness bills in Congress, but conservation advocates aren’t about to give up on their efforts to preserve public lands in Colorado. Read more about the political wrangling over wilderness in this Summit Voice story.

In fact, the recent oil and gas boom on the Western Slope has recharged wilderness protection efforts, as supporters rally around the new “equal ground” theme, asking President Obama and Congress to protect at least as many acres as are allocated for energy development.

Along with being ecologically important, protected areas are increasingly seen as critical to the region’s recreation economy. Protected areas also enhance property values in adjacent communities.

In Colorado, there are six proposals that would expand wilderness by more than 1 million acres. The biggest is U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette‘s Colorado Wilderness Act, which includes 31 areas for a total of 750,000 acres, including many chunks of mid-elevation lands that are crucial for wildlife. Continue reading

USFS to clean up mine debris near Breckenridge

Agency to remove abandoned buildings and old mining gear

Old mining scars are visible all along French Gulch Road, east of Breckenridge.

Old mining scars are visible all along French Gulch Road, east of Breckenridge, where the U.S. Forest Service is planning a cleanup at the Lincoln Townsite.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service will begin a careful cleanup of mining debris around the historic Lincoln Townsite, near Breckenridge. As part of the agency’s abandoned mine lands safety program, crews will demolish and remove abandoned buildings, sheds and equipment — but five buildings will be left standing at the site after local stakeholders commented on the potential historical value of the structures. Continue reading

Colorado: Fire danger creeps up in the high country

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The fire danger is currently rated as high in most of Colorado’s north-central mountains.

BLM lands in NW Colorado already under Stage 1 fire restrictions

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a bone-dry June, some public land managers in Colorado are starting to enact fire restrictions to lessen the chances of a human-caused wildfire start.

Summit County only picked up about 15 percent of the long-term average precipitation in June, for example with .19 inches at the official National Weather Service site in Dillon, compared to the average 1.14 inches. High temperatures for the month were about 4 degrees above average.

The White River National Forest (Eagle and Summit counties) hasn’t issued any restrictions yet, but lands administered by Bureau of Land Management in  parts of northwest Colorado have been under Stage 1 restrictions since June 27. Continue reading

Firefighters quell small fire near Breckenridge

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Fire danger is rising in Summit County, Colorado.

Fireworks suspected as cause

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Firefighters in Breckenridge, Colorado Sunday morning quickly quelled a small wildfire burning near a residential neighborhood in French Gulch.

A resident of the area reported the fire at about 7:30 a.m. on the hillside between Magnum Bonum Drive and Royal Tiger Road. Firefighters were able to establish a containment line around the small fire.

The exact cause is unknown but  Red, White & Blue Fire Chief Jim Keating said fireworks may been involved after getting reports of fireworks in the area Saturday night.

“At this time we we are working to determine if illegal fireworks or improperly discarded smoking materials are the cause of the fire,” Keating said. “We are working with local law enforcement to have a zero tolerance policy on illegal fireworks.”

The fire danger increased from moderate to high over the weekend in Summit County.

Colorado: Pennsylvania Mine cleanup set to begin

EPA removal action aims to reduce acid mine drainage at polluted site

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The ruins of the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine.

USGS and EPA experts sample soils near the Pennsylvania Mine.

USGS and EPA experts sample soils near the Pennsylvania Mine.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — After years of study, state and federal mine reclamation experts say they’re ready to try and reduce the amount of tainted water oozing out of the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, in Summit County, Colorado.

The old mining site high in the Peru Creek drainage above Keystone has been identified as a key source of toxic heavy metals that impair water quality for miles downstream. Concentrations of lead, cadmium, managanese and especially zinc exceed standards set to protect aquatic life in the stream.

The mine operated between 1879 and 1908, and intermittently through the 1940s, producing gold, silver, lead, copper and zinc. As water and oxygen interact with the highly mineralized rocks, so-called acid mine drainage forms, loading the stream with dissolved heavy metals. Continue reading

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