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Study shows flurry of threats to rainforests

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Tree canopy studies show rapid changes in Amazon rainforest. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Is global warming the knockout punch?

Staff Report

FRISCO — After watching Amazon forests change for decades, a team of researchers say the region is under the gun from multiple threats that threaten to deliver a knockout punch.

The 35-year study focused on how diverse communities of trees and vines respond when the Amazonian rainforest is fragmented by cattle ranching. Continue reading

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Independent journalism isn’t free — donate now

Support Colorado Environmental Reporting!

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Support independent journalism.

FRISCO — After almost five years and more than 6,500 stories, Summit Voice is still going strong. With your grassroots support, we’re going to renew our dedication to Colorado environmental news.

You won’t find better reporting on forest, water, endangered species and public lands. But independent journalism isn’t free. It involves a sustained commitment of time and energy. Direct funding by readers is the best way to avoid pressure from advertisers and to ensure continued in-depth and unbiased reporting.

Readers often ask how they can support Summit Voice, so we’ve added a PayPal button for donations.

Any amount is welcome. For $50 or more, pick out a set of three note cards from our selection at Fine Art America. Donate $250 or more, and choose a medium-size fine art print. Click here to see our artwork.

You can also donate the old school way by sending a check to Bob Berwyn, P.O. Box 340, Frisco, CO 80443.

Thanks for your continued support and please spread the word!

Is out-of-state firewood a threat to Colorado trees?

Trees? Or toothpicks?

Beetle-killed trees near Frisco, Colorado.

State Forest Service warns against transporting firewood

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may be a little like the Dutch boy putting his finger in the leaky dike, but Colorado Forest Service officials are warning that transporting firewood from place to place may increase the spread of invasive tree-killing bugs.

Moving firewood even short distances increases the risk to Colorado’s native forests and urban trees. With the 2013 detection of the highly destructive emerald ash borer in the City of Boulder, and ongoing bark beetle epidemics in the state’s mountain forests, the Colorado State Forest Service wants to be sure people are aware of the risks associated with moving firewood. Continue reading

Colorado: Small wildfire reported north of Silverthorne

Firefighter start containment, investigate cause

Colorado wildfire

Firefighters work Monday, May 5 to control a small wildfire burning in northern Summit County. Photo courtesy Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.

Staff Report

SILVERTHORNE – Summit County firefighters worked quickly into Monday evening to quash a small wildfire on a private ranch in the Lower Blue Valley.No people or structures were threatened by the five-acre blaze, which was burning in shrubs and dead-standing aspens on a hillside on the Mount Powell Ranch about 10 miles north of Silverthorne along Colorado 9.

More than 30 firefighters and other personnel responded from as far as Copper Mountain, along with law enforcement and state transportation workers, according to Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Lipsher said.

The fire in the still-damp northern mountains came as much of southern Colorado was under a red flag fire danger warning. The south-central plains are also facing critical fire danger, with persistent drought and the spring windy season at hand.

“Even though it’s early in the season, we take an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Summit County Sheriff John Minor. “We aren’t taking any chances.”

The fire was reported about 4:15 p.m., and by 7 p.m. firefighters had it about 20 percent contained and were optimistic going into nightfall that they would keep it at its current size. Light winds allowed firefighters to work on containment, but they faced some hazards such as potential falling trees and occasional torching of trees amid the single-digit relative humidity.

Although early in the season, the blaze at about 8,100 feet was not unprecedented for the area at this time of year.

“Fire season is here,” said Lake Dillon Fire Chief Dave Parmley. “We all need to begin that mindset of preparation and awareness, and don’t let the heavy snow of this past winter mislead you into thinking it’s going to be an uneventful summer when it comes to wildfire.”

Continue reading

Feds see $470 million gap in firefighting budget

 firefighters teamed up in March 2012 to quell an early season wildfire along Montezuma Road, near Keystone Resort, in Summit County, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Firefighters teamed up in March 2012 to quell an early season wildfire near Keystone Resort, in Summit County, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Funding shortfall has ripple effect in other public lands programs

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With a dangerous fire season forecast for parts of the country, especially the drought-stricken far West and Southern Plains, federal firefighting agencies will likely once again face a huge budget shortfall. That could require the Forest Service to divert funds from other programs, according to top administration officials who presented the report to Congress.

The report projects firefighting costs of about $1.8 billion, with only $1.4 billion budgeted. The Obama administration is advocating for a budget that would close the gap by giving firefighting agencies the ability to use emergency funds separate from their discretionary budgets to fight fires.

Similar legislation is pending in Congress, where the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act is cosponsored by Sen.Michal Bennet (D-CO) and Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Continue reading

Outdoors: Public lands access advocates win another round in the battle over federal recreation fees

Summit County hiking Colorado

The legal battles over Forest Service recreation fees continue

District court judges nixes Southern California Adventure Pass

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The see-saw legal battles over public land recreation fees took another twist last week, as a judge in California decided that the U.S. Forest Service can’t continue selling its Adventure Pass for heavily visited recreation areas in Southern California national forests.

According to the judge, the pass violates federal law — specifically the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act — because it makes visitors pay to use public lands even if they’re not using any developed facilities.

“The Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking. If a visitor does nothing other than park, the fee is solely for parking and is, therefore, plainly prohibited by the REA,” the court ruled, referencing previous court decisions. Continue reading

Western wildfires burning bigger and more often

Global warming seen as key factor in trend

wildfire acreage graph

Study documents significant trend in size and frequency of western wildfires.

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Western wildfires: How much bigger will they get?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The size and frequency of western wildfires have been increasing at a startling rate the past few decades, researchers said this week after scrutinizing satellite data to measure burned areas.

The number of wildfires larger than 1,000 acres increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011 and the total areas burned grew by about 90,000 acres per year — an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.

“We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case it was less than one percent,” said Philip Dennison, an associate professor of geography at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and lead author of the paper. Continue reading

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