Forest Service stalls on Wolf Creek land trade order

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A federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to release more documents related to a controversial land trade and development proposal at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Controversial swap would enable massive development project at Wolf Creek Pass

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service continues to delay the release of records related to a controversial land trade in southwestern Colorado.

Last week, a federal court granted the agency’s request for a 30-day extension to turn over letters, memos and other documents from a long-running review of the Wolf Creek land trade — a swap that would enable a massive resort development in the middle of an important wildlife area.

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel ruled that the Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act and ordered the agency to release the documents on the controversial land trade by Oct. 30. Conservation groups critical of the trade say the paper trail may show that the decision-making process was tainted by political influence. Continue reading

President Obama highlights ‘moral obligation’ to future generations in sustainability memorandum

This was one of the Snake River shots that never made into a daily post.

A presidential memorandum could mean more institutional love for America’s natural resources. @berwyn photo.

Federal agencies must target ‘no net loss’ in new projects

By Bob Berwyn

Federal agencies will be expected to make natural resource sustainability a key focus under a new presidential memorandum released this week.

Outlining a moral obligation to future generations, President Barack Obama said Americans have the ingenuity and tools needed to “avoid damage to the most special places in our nation and to find new ways to restore areas that have been degraded. ” Continue reading

Forests: Study says spruce beetle not a big factor in recent southwest Colorado wildfires

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A major spruce beetle outbreak has been spreading across forests of southwest Colorado, but that hasn’t been a big factor in recent wildfires in the region, according to CU-Boulder research.

Climate, topography likely more significant, researchers say

Staff Report

Colorado researchers have added another chapter to the long-running debate over beetle-kill and wildfires, finding that spruce beetle infestations haven’t increased the severity of wildfires in southwestern Colorado.

Spruce bark beetles have affected roughly half a million acres of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir forests across the state in recent years, with infestations documented across an additional 87,000 acres in 2014. Continue reading

Environment: More maple tree woes

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What’s up with maple trees?

Study documents widespread growth slowdown

Staff Report

An extensive tree-ring study in the Northeast suggests a widespread and steady decline in the health of sugar maples, one of most economically and ecologically important trees in the eastern United States and Canada.

The decline started showing up in the 1970s a decline in the growth rate of of sugar maple trees, but the reasons are still unclear, according to the State University of New York researchers who recently published their findings in the open-access journal “Ecosphere.” Continue reading

Judge says Forest Service violated FOIA in controversial Wolf Creek land exchange

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A federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to release more documents related to a controversial land trade and development proposal at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Sloppy search for records related to proposed Colorado resort development put agency in the hot seat

By Bob Berwyn

Conservation advocates battling against plans for a massive resort development at Wolf Creek Pass, in southwestern Colorado, won a partial victory in federal court this week, as a judge ruled that the U.S. Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act and must release more documents related to the approval of a controversial land trade.

The land trade was approved earlier this year by Rio Grande Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas. It would give the developer, Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, a way to access a parcel of private land that’s nearly surrounded by public national forest lands by swapping 205 federal acres for 177 acres of private land. If it stands, the trade would enable construction of a resort village for up to 8,000 people. Continue reading

Forests and CO2 — It’s complicated!

One of the few lodgepole seedlings to survive the industrial clearcutting on the north shore of the Frisco Peninsula.

Climate models may be overestimating the carbon-capturing capacity of forests. @bberwyn photo.

Loss of nitrogen a key factor in forest equation

Staff Report

Forests may grow faster as atmospheric CO2 increases, but that doesn’t mean they’ll absorb more of the heat-trapping gas. Instead, a shortage of nitrogen means plants won’t be able to fix as much carbon as projected by some climate models.

“Forests take up carbon from the atmosphere, but in order for the plants to fix the carbon, it requires a certain amount of nitrogen,” said researchers Prasanth  who took a close look at the chemistry of secondary forests that are regrowing after deforestation, wood harvest and fires.

“If that ratio of carbon to nitrogen isn’t right, even if you add many times more carbon than it gets currently, the forests cannot absorb the extra carbon,” Meiyappan said. Continue reading

Scientists slam Congress for once again considering misguided forest management bills

The magenta-flowered fireweed, which springs up after a burn, dominates a landscape once covered in black spruce in Alaskas Yukon Flats. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The magenta-flowered fireweed, which springs up after a burn, dominates a landscape once covered in black spruce in Alaskas Yukon Flats. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

‘Fire is not destroying our forests, rather, it is restoring these ecosystems …’

Staff Report

A group of scientists has weighed in on the political tug-of-war over forest policies by writing a letter to the U.S. Senate and President Obama, warning that two bills currently on the table would be destructive to forest ecosystems and wildlife

At issue are House Resolution 2647 and Senate Bill 1691, both proposed in response to ongoing concerns about forest fires. But the measures won’t improve forest health or reduce fire risks, the scientists said. Instead, the laws are aimed at short-cutting environmental studies, reducing public involvement and preventing courts from enforcing environmental laws.

The role of the timber industry in federal forest management would also unfairly increase under the deceptive guise of promoting decision-making by “collaborative” groups, the scientists wrote.

Continue reading

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