New satellite data aids wildfire efforts

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Wildfires in Canada send thick plumes of smoke streaming across the Great Lakes region. Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

Real-time info and detailed imaging helps firefighter get the jump on dangerous blazes

Staff Report

FRISCO — New satellite-based technologies developed by NASA have already helped firefighters in South Africa respond to dangerous wildfires, and could help resource managers in the U.S. get a jump on blazes that threaten communities.

The new fire detection tool uses data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite to detect smaller fires in more detail than previous space-based products. The high-resolution data have been used with a cutting-edge computer model to predict how a fire will change direction based on weather and land conditions. Continue reading

Climate change contributes to longer fire seasons worldwide

In late June, smoke from wildfires in Canada streamed down over North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

In late June, smoke from wildfires in Canada streamed down over North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

New study tracks regional nuances, global trends

Staff Report

FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service scientists and other researchers say there has been a significant increase in the length of wildfire seasons on nearly every continent, with the exception of Australia. Fire weather seasons around the globe have increased by nearly 20 percent and the global burnable area doubled over the past 35 years.

Most vegetation types, except boreal forests, showed significant increases in the fire weather season length, the new study found. Some areas, such as the Western and Southeastern United States, Alaska, tropical and sub-tropical South America and Eastern Africa and large parts of Eurasia show a steady lengthening of the fire season from 1979-2013. Continue reading

Summit County: Frey Gulch restoration begins

Construction of new dirt bike trails also under way

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The Forest Service and volunteer partners are simultaneously building new dirt bike trails and closing forest roads in the Tenderfoot Mountain area.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service is implementing restoration plans associated with approval of the new off-road motorcycle trail system on Tenderfoot Mountain.

The trail system, long a local point of contention, was approved last year based on a compromise agreement among stakeholders. The Forest Service has already started building part of the trail, with new single-track visible just a few feet above, and running parallel to Straight Creek Road.

This summer, Tenderfoot Mountain Road (#66.2B) in Frey Gulch will be closed and rehabilitated in order to improve water quality and improved habitat for fish and wildlife. The restoration of Frey Gulch was included as a condition the trail system permit. Continue reading

USFS OKs road to private land at Breckenridge Ski Area

The ultimate ski cabin?

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Road construction to a private inholding at Breckenridge Ski Area could begin this summer.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —The U.S. Forest Service has authorized construction of a 1,300-foot road across national forest lands at Breckenridge Ski Resort to access a privately owned 10-acre parcel.

The inholding was bought last year by a Breckenridge resident who plans to build a cabin on the tract, located located near the top of the Zendo Chair and base of the Kensho chair on Peak 6. Continue reading

Study: Western pine beetle outbreak may have weakened next generation of trees by wiping out key fungi

Hawk's wing Colorado mushrooms

Important mushroom species that help trees grow were wiped out by the mountain pine beetle epidemic, potentially leaving future forests more susceptible to renewed insect attacks. @bberwyn photo.

Widespread mushroom die-off dramatically lowers seedling survival rate

Staff Report

FRISCO — The recent pine beetle outbreak in western forests may have left the next generation of trees more vulnerable to future pests, Canadian researchers concluded in a new study that examined how the wave of tree deaths affected fungi that grow together with lodgepole pines.

Many trees, including lodgepoles, are partly dependent on certain fungi that enable a nutrient exchange at the cellular level. But the pine beetle outbreak was so widespread that many of the beneficial fungi disappeared. Continue reading

New Forest Service rule requires bear–proof food storage in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area near Aspen

A peaceful campsite along Officers Gulch Pond, formed when crews were building Interstate 70 through a narrow mountain canyon.

Campers in Colorado run the risk of encountering rummaging bears if they don’t store their food in bear-proof containers. @bberwyn photo.

Growing number of incidents prompts crackdown to protect bears and people

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service will try to protect both people and bears in the mountains around Aspen by requiring backcountry campers to store their food in hard-sided bear-proof containers.

The new regulation for the heavily visited 162,333 acre Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area on the White River National Forest comes after Forest Service rangers reported an increasing number of incidents involving humans and bears.

“Based on recent human/bear incidents in the heavily used Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, we are implementing this emergency special order requiring hard-sided bear-resistant food canisters for all overnight visitors,” Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer said in a press release. Continue reading

House GOP tries to slash forest environmental rules

Logging on the Frisco Peninsula, Sept. 2011. @bberwyn photo.

Logging on the Frisco Peninsula, Sept. 2011. @bberwyn photo.

‘The public will be looking at irreparable habitat damage, polluted watersheds and drinking water and a devastated outdoor economy’

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Anti-environmental Republicans in the House are once again trying to fast-track logging projects under the guise of forest health. They also want to discourage citizen involvement in forest management decisions and try and stop conservation groups from challenging illegal logging projects in court.

The House last week passed H.R. 2647, with the Orwellian name of “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015.”

Here’s a bill summary posted at govtrack.us:

“The Resilient Federal Forests Act would make a variety of changes to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service forest management standards such as requiring studies on plans in response to forest fires, insect and disease infestation, and catastrophic events. It would also make it more difficult to issue a lawsuit against the Forest Service by requiring plaintiffs who lose lawsuits to pay for the agency’s legal expenses, and in some cases by exempting the agency from paying the plaintiff’s legal expenses if the plaintiff wins.”

Govtrack gives the bill just a 15 percent chance of being signed into law, mainly because the extreme rightwingers in the House included language that won’t be acceptable to moderate Republicans in the Senate.

In effect, the House GOP quashed any real chance at passing any meaningful forest management reform because they insisted on pursuing an extreme, ideologically bill. That becomes apparent when you read the statement from Rob Bishop, the Utah Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee:

“The verdict is in. The draconian environmental policies and litigation assaults of the past thirty years have failed our forests. Horrific wildfires are running rampant in our National Forest System. H.R. 2647 gives the Forest Service the resources it needs to suppress these devastating wildfires and gives them the tools they need to prevent fires before they start. I am proud of Rep. Westerman and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their advancement of H.R. 2647, a bill which makes enormous progress toward restoring the health of our treasured national forests.”

Conservation groups are not thrilled about the bill. Defenders of Wildlife said the measure would “bulldoze bedrock environmental laws to pave the way for dramatic increases in logging in forests across America.”

This bill turns back the clock 50 years on forest management and puts our nation’s forests at risk by green-lighting reckless logging practices, damaging vital wildlife habitat, short-cutting critical environmental review, and limiting public involvement in forest management decisions.

“This is a sad testament to the fact that instead of leading the charge on conserving America’s valued forests, many in Congress seem bent on casting aside our nation’s foundational conservation laws,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO, Defenders of Wildlife. “Dramatically increasing logging based upon little to no environmental analysis is like racing down the highway with your windshield painted black. You know that the outcome will not be good. The public will be looking at irreparable habitat damage, polluted watersheds and drinking water and a devastated outdoor economy.

“Rather than recklessly rolling back time-tested conservation laws, Congress should focus on the one and only legislative reform actually needed for our nation’s forests—properly funding the fire-fighting budget,” Rappaport Clark said.

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