Public lands: Watchdog groups slow proposed expansion of uranium mines in Utah

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A U.S. Geological Survey map shows concentrations of uranium deposits in the U.S.

Objection process finds flaws in environmental review

Staff Report

FRISCO — An environmental study for the proposed expansion of uranium mines in Utah was flawed and needs to be redone, a regional U.S. Forest Service officer said last week, rejecting Manti-La Sal Forest Supervisor Brian Pentecost’s earlier decision to permit the project.

Responding to formal objections by environmental groups, the regional reviewing officer said Pentecost erred in deciding the project would not have a significant impact.

“There are statements that lack rational and conclusions formed without supporting data. A decision made from this record would not be well informed,” George Iversion, the objection reviewing officer, wrote in his March 20 letter to the Western Action Mining Project. Continue reading

BLM updates oil and gas drilling plan for Piceance Basin in northwest Colorado

Master leasing plan aims to protect Dinosaur National Monument

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Can a master leasing protect cherished public resources around Dinosaur National Monument?

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An aerial view of the Dinosaur National Monument entrance road. Photo courtesy EcoFlight.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A new master leasing plan proposed by the Bureau of Land Management for public lands surrounding northwestern Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument aims to reduce oil and gas drilling impacts to wildlife, archaeological treasures and other resources in the region.

The plan could work if it’s implemented effectively, according to some public land watchdog groups, but doesn’t do much to address the larger issue of trying to move away from fossil fuels.

In fact, the agency expects oil and gas drilling to increase in the area, so the study that forms the basis for the plan evaluated impacts associated with the potential development of more than 15,000 oil and gas wells drilled on 1,100 well pads over the next 20 years. Continue reading

Microplastic pollution a growing Great Lakes concern

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Are the Great Lakes a hotspot for microplastic pollution?

Human garbage is choking ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Microplastic pollution is showing up in alarming quantities in the Great Lakes, with concentrations in Lake Erie as high as in some of the well-documents ocean garbage patches, according to scientists, who say more research is needed to help craft rules that could address the problem.

Based on a new report from Canadian researchers, a member of Canada’s parliament is calling on the government to list microbeads as a potential toxic substance. The tiny plastic flakes are used in cosmetics, but act like sponges for certain pollutants and are easily ingested by aquatic organisms, including fish and shellfish. Continue reading

Small wetlands critical to overall ecosystem functions

‘Many people would say, what’s the big deal if we drain this small area? But these smaller wetlands are integral …’

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Colorado wetlands. @bberwyn photo

FRISCO — A new study by researchers at Waterloo University supports the EPA’s proposed new rule for protecting discontinuous wetlands by showing that those smaller marshy patches function best as a group.

Interconnected pockets of wetlands form a landscape mosaic which provide unique habitat and safe breeding grounds for species such as salamanders and migratory birds. Many traditional wetlands conservation projects tend to overlook that “edge” function and mistakenly focus on preserving only total wetland area, with no consideration of ecosystem services provided by different wetland types. Continue reading

Colorado: Ambitious restoration project in Summit County aims to heal Swan River’s mining scars

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$975,00o state grant will help fund environmental work

Staff Report

FRISCO — An ambitious effort to restore the Swan River got a big boost this month with a $975,000 state grant.

The restoration area includes about 3,500 linear feet of the river along Tiger Road in the Swan River drainage, 11 miles northeast of Breckenridge, on land jointly owned by Summit County and the Town of Breckenridge.

“We’re extremely fortunate and grateful to have received this grant,” County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “Undoing the damage from Summit County’s mining past is an immense undertaking, but these infusions of funding are critical in accelerating our progress.” Continue reading

Protected zones pay off for Great Barrier Reef

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A NASA Earth Observatory view of the Great Barrier Reef.

Study shows rebound of coral trout in no-fishing zones

Staff Report

FRISCO — Long-term monitoring in the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem shows that marine protection pays off in a big way, as scientists said that coral trout biomass has more than doubled since the 1980s in the green zones.

The trout in the protected reserves are bigger and more abundant than those in fished “blue zones” of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and they are also better able to cope with cyclone damage, according to a long-term study published today in Current Biology. Similar approaches may be beneficial for coral reefs around the world, the researcher concluded. Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse get some love in Oregon

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Greater sage-grouse need all the help they can get.

Voluntary conservation plan aimed at protecting and restoring sagebrush habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Eastern Oregon’s greater sage-grouse may catch a break under a far-reaching voluntary conservation deal that could cover up to 2.3 million acres.

Under the agreement, landowners in all eight Eastern and Central Oregon counties with greater sage-grouse habitat can enroll their property in a voluntary conservation program, receiving assurances that they will not face additional regulatory requirements if the bird is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

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