Posted on May 1, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
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
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, forest fires, Forest health, forests, public lands, US Forest Service, wildfires | Tagged: climate change, federal budget, U.S. Forest Service, Wildfires | 1 Comment »
Posted on April 30, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
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
Filed under: Colorado, forests, public lands, US Forest Service | Tagged: Adventure Pass, Forest Service, national forests, public lands, recreation fees, Southern California | 2 Comments »
Posted on April 19, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Global warming seen as key factor in trend
Study documents significant trend in size and frequency of western wildfires.
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
Filed under: climate and weather, Drought, Environment, extreme weather, forest fires, global warming | Tagged: climate, Environment, global warming, Wildfires | 1 Comment »
Posted on April 15, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
The BLM will analyze the environmental impacts of contested oil and gas drilling leases south of I-70, between Carbondale and DeBeque. Click for a full-size version.
BLM taking input during scoping phase of environmental study
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Lynx, elk, owls and other high country forest critters in western Colorado will get at least a temporary reprieve from potential oil and gas drilling, as the federal Bureau of Land Management announced last week that it will do an in-depth environmental study for 65 existing oil and gas leases on 80,000 acres of public lands managed by the White River National Forest.
The leases are spread roughly west to east along biologically important mid-elevation lands between Carbondale and DeBeque and overlap designated roadless areas. Conservation advocates have long argued that the sale of the leases was inconsistent with efforts to protect wildlife, water quality and other high-value natural resources. Continue reading
Filed under: BLM, endangered species, energy, Environment, forests, fracking, gas drilling, public lands | 1 Comment »
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Court says private concession companies don’t have to meet agency standards for recreation fees on public lands
Fee stations like this one at Pine Cove campground near Frisco, Colorado, could become even more common after a federal court exempted private companies from rules governing the application of recreation fees.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — One of the legal efforts to try and check the recent proliferation of public land access fees was rebuffed by a federal court in Washington, D.C. last week. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that private companies running recreation facilities on federal lands don’t have to follow the same regulations as agency managed facilities.
In a worst-case scenario, the ruling could open the door to more widespread fees for trailhead parking and other types of access that have traditionally been free, said Kitty Benzar, president of the West Slope No-Fee Coalition, a group dedicated to eliminating fees charged for access and recreation on undeveloped public lands.
Filed under: BLM, national parks, public lands, US Forest Service, White River National Forest | Tagged: access, camping, Forest Service, public lands, recreation fees | 2 Comments »
Posted on March 20, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
You can add titanium alloy golf clubs to the list of things that can start wildfires.
Lab study shows titanium alloy clubs can generate super-hot sparks
FRISCO — As if there wasn’t already enough to worry about, golfers in the southwestern United States and other arid regions now have to keep in mind that their chip shot out of the rough could spark a wildfire.
High-tech titanium alloy clubs are the culprit, according scientists with the University of California, Irvine. When a club coated with the lightweight metal is swung and strikes a rock, it creates sparks that can heat to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit for long enough to ignite dry foliage, according to the findings published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Fire and Materials. Continue reading
Filed under: forest fires | Tagged: Environment, golf, golf courses, titanium alloy, Wildfires | 1 Comment »
Posted on March 17, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
State report details status of insect activities
Spruce beetles are widely active across the mountains of southern Colorado.
FRISCO — Windstorms, mild winters and drought are the key factors in the continued spread of spruce beetles, which have become the dominant change agent in Colorado forests the past few years.
According to the latest annual forest health report compiled by state forest experts, spruce beetles were active across 398,000 acres in 2013, affected more than triple the amount of acreage than mountain pine beetles. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, Environment, Forest health, forests, Summit County news | Tagged: Colorado, environments, forests, pine beetles, spruce beetles | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
What’s the role of coniferous trees in regulating climate?
Fast growth of particles from pine tree fumes surprises researchers
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Forests may play a much bigger role in global climate than previously believed. In addition to cycling carbon, it appears that gases wafting from conifers quickly form small particles that can reflect sunlight and promote cloud formation, according to a new study that looked at forest aerosols at the molecular level.
“In many forested regions, you can go and observe particles apparently form from thin air. They’re not emitted from anything, they just appear,” said Joel Thornton, a University of Washington associate professor of atmospheric sciences. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, forests | Tagged: aerosols, atmospheric science, climate, forests, global warming | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 24, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Forest Service wants to reconnect an aquatic ecosystem that was sliced apart by dredges in the mining era
Restoration plans are afoot for a degraded section of the Swan River, in Summit County, Colorado.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — For all the gold Summit County’s old-timers managed to pull from local mountains and rivers, they left behind quite a mess. Along with toxic pollution oozing into rivers from some abandoned mines, other streams were turned completely inside-out, buried under tons of gravel.
That includes the Swan River, near Breckenridge, where the U.S. Forest Service now hopes to reverse some of the damage with an ambitious five- to 10-year restoration project.
The Forest Service aims to recreate of two miles of stream, riparian, and restore uplands that were all destroyed by the dredge boats. The agency also wants to decommission some roads in the area, build a new road and trail, all within a mix ownership of private, county, town, and national forest lands. Another element of the project would create fish barriers to protect populations of cutthroat trout. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, Dillon Ranger District, Environment, rivers, Summit County news, US Forest Service, water, White River National Forest | Tagged: Cutthroat trout, Environment, restoration, Swan River | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 12, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Can we log our way to forest health?
Science sometimes missing from forest management policies
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — While politicians and policy makers continue to conflate a number of complex forest health and wildfire issues, a new study suggests there’s little evidence supporting the idea that logging helps to control or contain the spread of tree-killing pine beetles.
Nobody disputes the need to clear trees, brush and other fuels from around homes in fire-prone forest areas, but some lawmakers who should know better have been pushing for more logging under the guise of restoring forest health and as an antidote to insect infestations.
The idea that speedy approval of logging projects could help restore forest health was also used as a basis for short-cutting environmental reviews for logging projects, possibly resulting in negative long-term environmental impacts in forests.
But forest researchers in California and Montana said there isn’t much monitoring to assess the effectiveness of logging, and that failures often aren’t reported, probably because they don’t fit the popular narrative. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, Forest health, forests, pine beetles | Tagged: Forest health, forests, logging, pine beetles | Leave a comment »