Do wilderness areas need buffer zones?

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The Eagles Nest Wilderness in Colorado.

Researchers propose new ways to limit impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — A growing population and increasing development may be threatening the ecological integrity of some wilderness areas in the U.S.

Protecting those areas may require establishing buffer zones to limit the impacts, according to University of Georgia researchers who took a close look at development trends near public lands. Continue reading

Science behind the scenery at Rocky Mountain NP

Aspen ecology, boreal toad presentation coming up

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Rocky Mountain National Park from Trail Ridge Road. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — National Parks aren’t just places to spend a great vacation. Because they’re relatively untouched by development, they also serve as living laboratories where scientists can study plants and animals in an undisturbed setting.

Researchers who have specialized in understanding Rocky Mountain ecosystems will be sharing their expertise as part of Rocky Mountain National Park’s centennial Science Behind The Scenery Programs in the next few weeks every Thursday evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Beaver Meadows visitor center. The talks are free and open to the public. Continue reading

Lawsuit filed over controversial Wolf Creek land trade

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The U.S. Forest Service approval for a land trade that would enable a massive real estate development near Wolf Creek Pass will be tested in federal court.

Watchdog groups say approval for the exchange was tainted by bias and political influence

Staff Report

FRISCO — Watchdog groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service to block  a land exchange near Wolf Creek Pass in southwestern Colorado. The swap would enable a huge real estate development near Wolf Creek Ski Area in the midst of important wildlife habitat.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Colorado, alleges that the approval process was tainted by a lack of transparency and by an incomplete environmental analysis that was unduly influenced by the proponents of the exchange.

According to Rocky Mountain Wild attorney Matt Sandler, the lawsuit will show that the Forest Service review process was biased and conflicted. Continue reading

Global warming drives huge Alaska forest shift

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Study tracks shift in boreal forest.

‘This is not a scenario model, or a might, or a maybe …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — There’s little doubt that global warming will drive massive shifts in plant communities around the globe, and in Alaska, researchers have already been able to document those changes at the forest scale.

White spruce tree growth in interior of the state has declined to record low levels, while the same species in Western Alaska is growing better than ever measured before.

“For the first time across a major forest region, we have real data showing that biome shift has started,” said University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Extension researcher Glenn Juday.

“This is not a scenario model, or a might, or a maybe. The boreal forest in Interior Alaska is very near dying from unsuitably warm temperatures. The area in Western Alaska where the forest transitions to tundra is now the productive heart of the boreal forest,” Juday said. Continue reading

Letters: Support for new Colorado wilderness

Will Congress act?

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A view of the Gore Range from the flanks of the Williams Fork Range, at the edge of a new wilderness area proposed by Congressman Jared Polis. @bberwyn photo.

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A map of the areas covered by the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act.

FRISCO — In May, Congressman Jared Polis reintroduced a bill to create about 39,000 acres of new wilderness in Summit and Eagle counties.

According to Polis, the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act will help sustain recreational resources, protect watersheds, preserve important wildfire corridors, and strengthen Colorado’s tourism economy.

Along with new wilderness, the bill would also designate 16,000 acres as special management areas for recreation, and where some other activities, including wildfire mitigation and forest health treatments would be permitted.

Trace the history of Polis’ push for new wilderness in the central Colorado mountains in these Summit Voice stories going back to 2010.

Letters:

Dear Editor,

Congressman Jared Polis’ introduction of the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act should be applauded. This bill, the result of 5 years of local community engagement and consensus, is important not just to the central Rocky Mountains but to Colorado as a whole. Many Coloradans know this area for the endless recreational opportunities, whether it’s hiking, biking, camping, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, or just relaxing. As the owner of Seymour Lodging Corp, Colorado wilderness is of particular importance to me.

Owning a small business is never easy, particularly when your business is dependent on external factors such as weather and consumer discretionary income. Fortunately for myself and many other small business owners across the state, the designation of wilderness, in addition to enhancing quality of life, makes local tourism a little more secure.

The Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act protects many areas in the White River National Forest, which draws more than 9 million visitors annually; these visitors then support local tourism and outdoor recreation businesses.

The outdoor recreation industry in Colorado is a critical part of the state’s economy which generates $13.2 billion annually in consumer spending, and supports 125,000 jobs which pay over $4 billion in wages to Coloradans. Many small mountain towns count on tourism and outdoor recreation to stay afloat. I know personally how difficult this can be, and I would like to thank Congressman Polis for investing in the state of Colorado.

Richard Seymour

***

Dear Editor,

After reading about the recent introduction of the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act, I wanted to publicly thank Representative Jared Polis for his work protecting Colorado. As an avid hiker, I deeply enjoy spending free time in the Central Mountains.

Over the past 5 years Rep. Polis has worked with a plethora of local stakeholders to ensure that this legislation truly helps to support the local community- this hard work has paid off, garnering the support of everyone from mountain bikers and conservationists to hunters and small businessmen.

If passed, the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act would provide important protections for key watersheds in the Central Mountains and safeguard our ever-valuable Colorado water for local communities and the greater Front Range. As well, the Act would protect some of Colorado’s best fishing streams and preserve valuable wildlife habitat; thank you, Representative Polis!

Eddie Welsh

Eddie Welsh is history and political science major at Colorado State University.  He has a special interest in environmental issues here in Colorado, particularly in the Central Mountains where he spend a great deal of  time.

Cabinet members push for wildfire budget changes

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Firefighers working at the scene of a wildfire near Keystone Colorado in 2011. 

Wildfire season outlook means the Forest Service may once again have to scrounge for firefighting money from other funds

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Despite plentiful spring moisture in the central U.S., top federal officials warned that parts of the West could still see a potentially disastrous wildfire season, especially in the far West and the northernmost Rockies.

This summer’s wildfire season could be a repeat of last year, when the biggest fires burned in Oregon and Washington, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said during a press briefing in Denver. Continue reading

Battle over Colorado coal mine heats up

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More coal mining in Colorado?

Environmental activists want Forest Service to drop expansion plan for West Elk mine

Staff Report

FRISCO — A U.S. Forest Service coal-mining plan that could result in dozens of miles of new roads in a pristine Colorado forest is drawing fire from conservation groups and citizens around the country.

Expanding Arch Coal’s West Elk coal mine in Gunnison County would be a lose-lose — bad for the state’s environment, and bad for the global climate, according to the environmental groups, who recently rallied their members to flood the agency with letters and emails. Continue reading

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