Forest Service finalizes national snowmobile rules

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Snowmobiles at Vail Pass, Colorado.

New policy requires designation of motorized winter use

Staff Report

FRISCO — With the recent huge growth in motorized winter sports, the Forest Service has been behind the curve in managing public lands, but last month, the agency released its final policy for managing snowmobile and other “over-snow” vehicle use.

As directed by court order, the policy requires that roads, trails and areas where over-snow vehicle use can occur be specifically designated by local Forest Service mangers. Previously, managers had the discretion to decide whether to designate specific areas for over-snow vehicle use. Continue reading

Global warming: California’s majestic redwoods at risk

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Redwoods at risk. bberwyn photo.

New study pinpoints climate-change threats to Pacific Northwest rainforests

Staff Report

FRISCO — Huge reservoirs of biodiversity in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest are at risk as global warming reshapes climate conditions in the region.

Suitable habitat for majestic coastal redwoods could shrink by 23 percent, and other species like Alaska’s yellow cedars are already dying back as temperatures warm.

“In the Pacific Northwest, the glass is half empty as the climate may no longer support rainforest communities like coast redwood,” said Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist of Geos Institute, announcing the results of a recent study that focused on the future distribution of eight rainforest conifers across a 2,200-mile stretch of coastal rainforests in the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. Continue reading

Jared Polis to serve on House Resources Committee

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Congressman Jared Polis.

Colorado lawmaker expected to be a pro-environment voice on a panel led conservative Republicans who often undermine federal efforts to manage public lands on the behalf of all Americans

Staff Report

FRISCO — A languishing proposal to create new wilderness areas in the Colorado mountains may get a boost in Congress this year, as U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) joins the House Natural Resources Committee.

In the last two years, the committee has been a bastion of anti-government rhetoric, in some cases considering bills that would significantly weaken protection for natural resources and public lands. As a member of the minority, Polis won’t be able to get any meaningful legislation passed on his own, but his pro-environmental voice will be a welcome addition for public lands advocates. Continue reading

Forest Service delays final decision on controversial Wolf Creek land trade and development scheme

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A proposed resort development near Wolf Creek Pass and the nearby ski area would irrevocably change the character of the area for the worse.

Conservation advocates vow all-out battle to halt unwanted backcountry development

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service will take an extra 30 days to scrutinize a controversial land trade that would open the door for construction of a full-scale resort village near Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.

In November, Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas approved the swap, triggering a 45-day objection period. Now, Deputy Regional Forester Maribeth Gustafson is extending the objection resolution period for 30 days. Read a detailed story on the proposed trade here. Continue reading

Colorado fracking industry files formal objection to White River National Forest oil and gas plan

Drillers say restrictions will hinder exploitation of new shale plays to the detriment of local communities

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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.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Even though the vast majority of public lands in the West are already open for fossil fuel exploitation, oil and gas companies want more.

In their latest push for more drilling, three fracking industry lobbying groups are challenging the White River National Forest’s oil and gas drilling plan, claiming that the agency’s analysis was marred by politics, as elected officials pushed to have the Thompson Divide area excluded from energy development.

In their formal objection to the plan, the groups ( Western Energy Alliance, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Public Lands Advocacy) the groups said that, as written, the document could prevent the development of speculative new plays in Mancos and Niobrara shale formations in western Colorado. Continue reading

Aerial survey shows pine beetles waning, but spruce beetles continue to spread across Colorado forests

Aerial surveys help track forest changes over time

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Nearly every mature spruce has been killed by spruce beetle in this drainage on the Rio Grande National Forest.Photo: Brian Howell.

Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in southwestern Colorado.

Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in southwestern Colorado. Graph courtesy USFS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There’s good news and bad news from Colorado’s forests. Mountain pine beetle activity has faded to the lowest level since 1996, but spruce beetles continue to spread in the San Juans and in northwestern Colorado.

The spruce beetle outbreak was detected on 485,000 acres in 2014, compared to 398,000 acres across the state in 2013, according to the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service. The annual aerial survey by the two agencies shows that the spruce beetle outbreak expanded to 253,000 new acres. Continue reading

Study: Small trees key to long-term forest survival

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Forest treatments that focus on removing smaller trees may not be the best tool for western dry forests, according to new research by University of Wyoming scientists.

Study shows many treatments in western dry forests are misguided

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Mid-elevation forests in the western U.S. have survived centuries of drought, wildfires and insect onslaughts by hedging their bets with a diversity of tree sizes, Wyoming researchers said after studying forest plots from the Pacific Northwest down to Arizona and New Mexico.

The research showed that the biggest threat to those forests is from insects and not wildfires. Historically abundant small trees enable those forests to rebound after tree-killing bugs move through. Continue reading

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