Forest Service stalls on Wolf Creek land trade order


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

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


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

Forest Service maps development boom in fire-prone exurbs

Budgets aren’t keeping up with wildfire risks


Red zone development boom eats up firefighting budgets.

Staff Report

Sprawling exurban development across the U.S. has put more homes than ever at risk of catastrophic wildfires, according to a new U.S. Forest Service report that maps recent expansion of the so-called wildland-urban interface.

The incredible spurt in home building in that fire-prone zone has  direct implications for the cost of wildfire fighting. Increasing densities of people and infrastructure in the WUI makes wildfire management more complex and requires more firefighting assets to ensure an appropriate, safe and effective response, Forest Service officials said as they released new report. Continue reading

Petition seeks new mining regulations to prevent future disasters like the Animas River spill


Drainage from the abandoned Pennsylvannia Mine in Summit County, Colorado, has been poisoning Peru Creek and the Snake River for decades, @bberwyn photo.

Common sense tweaks would require more monitoring as well as reclamation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Congress, under fierce lobbying pressure from the mining industry, may not have the political wherewithal to make meaningful changes to mining laws.

But public land agencies could tweak their regulations to reduce the chances of another event like the spill from the Gold King Mine that tainted the Animas and San Juan rivers earlier this month.

A coalition of community and environmental groups hopes to spur those changes at the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture with a formal petition under the Administrative Procedures Act. The petition seeks four key changes to mining rules that would go a long way toward averting future toxic spills.

The rules changes would:

  • Limit the lifetime of a mine permit,
  • Impose enforceable reclamation deadlines and groundwater monitoring requirements on mines
  • Require regular monitoring and inspections,
  • And limit the number of years that a mine can remain inactive.

Continue reading

U.S. wildfires surge to 10-year high


Towering flames at the Fork Complex wildfire in California, Photo via Inciweb.

Feds spending $150 million per day and seek firefighting help from Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Staff Report

FRISCO — This year’s wildfire activity in the U.S. has surged to the highest level in 10 years, with the National Interagency Fire Center reporting that about 7.2 million acres have burned so far, and officials said they expect the wildfire season to intensify in the coming weeks.

The drought-stricken far West is hardest hit, with 16 large fires currently burning in Washington, 14 in California and 12 in Oregon. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said federal agencies are currently spending about $150 million per day on fighting fires across the West. Continue reading

U.S. Forest Service approves massive expansion of summer recreational facilities at Breckenridge ski area

Zip lines, canopy tours and other attractions planned


A slice of the Tenmile Range that already feels the full brunt of industrial level recreation will see even more summer traffic after the U. S. Forest Service approved a huge expansion of new summer activities and facilities.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service is on track to approve a huge expansion of summer activities at Breckenridge Ski Area that will accommodate up to 150,000 additional visitors during the summer season.

The agency this week released a final environmental study for the new installations and programs, along with a draft decision letter from White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, who said he thinks the new facilities — including zip lines, canopy tours and challenge courses — will enhance public appreciation of national forest lands and the outdoors.

The proposal was controversial in Breckenridge, as some residents expressed concerns about drawing more visitors to the already crowded town. Other locals support the plan as a way of increasing tourism revenues and drumming up more business for local restaurants and shops. Continue reading

New satellite data aids wildfire efforts


Wildfires in Canada send thick plumes of smoke streaming across the Great Lakes region. Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

Real-time info and detailed imaging helps firefighter get the jump on dangerous blazes

Staff Report

FRISCO — New satellite-based technologies developed by NASA have already helped firefighters in South Africa respond to dangerous wildfires, and could help resource managers in the U.S. get a jump on blazes that threaten communities.

The new fire detection tool uses data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite to detect smaller fires in more detail than previous space-based products. The high-resolution data have been used with a cutting-edge computer model to predict how a fire will change direction based on weather and land conditions. Continue reading


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