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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Summit County: Frey Gulch restoration begins

Construction of new dirt bike trails also under way

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The Forest Service and volunteer partners are simultaneously building new dirt bike trails and closing forest roads in the Tenderfoot Mountain area.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service is implementing restoration plans associated with approval of the new off-road motorcycle trail system on Tenderfoot Mountain.

The trail system, long a local point of contention, was approved last year based on a compromise agreement among stakeholders. The Forest Service has already started building part of the trail, with new single-track visible just a few feet above, and running parallel to Straight Creek Road.

This summer, Tenderfoot Mountain Road (#66.2B) in Frey Gulch will be closed and rehabilitated in order to improve water quality and improved habitat for fish and wildlife. The restoration of Frey Gulch was included as a condition the trail system permit. Continue reading

USFS OKs road to private land at Breckenridge Ski Area

The ultimate ski cabin?

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Road construction to a private inholding at Breckenridge Ski Area could begin this summer.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —The U.S. Forest Service has authorized construction of a 1,300-foot road across national forest lands at Breckenridge Ski Resort to access a privately owned 10-acre parcel.

The inholding was bought last year by a Breckenridge resident who plans to build a cabin on the tract, located located near the top of the Zendo Chair and base of the Kensho chair on Peak 6. Continue reading

New Forest Service rule requires bear–proof food storage in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area near Aspen

A peaceful campsite along Officers Gulch Pond, formed when crews were building Interstate 70 through a narrow mountain canyon.

Campers in Colorado run the risk of encountering rummaging bears if they don’t store their food in bear-proof containers. @bberwyn photo.

Growing number of incidents prompts crackdown to protect bears and people

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service will try to protect both people and bears in the mountains around Aspen by requiring backcountry campers to store their food in hard-sided bear-proof containers.

The new regulation for the heavily visited 162,333 acre Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area on the White River National Forest comes after Forest Service rangers reported an increasing number of incidents involving humans and bears.

“Based on recent human/bear incidents in the heavily used Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, we are implementing this emergency special order requiring hard-sided bear-resistant food canisters for all overnight visitors,” Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer said in a press release. Continue reading

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