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Colorado: Senators Udall and Bennet ask President Obama to use Antiquities Act to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument

Gridlock in Congress prompts request for designation

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There’s a new push to create a national monument along the Arkansas River.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing gridlock in Congress, Colorado’s U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have asked President Obama to consider designating Browns Canyon, in Chaffee County, as a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

The request comes as Congress has all but ignored a huge backlog of public lands bills primarily based on ideological opposition to land protection measures by House Republican committee chairs.

According to Udall and Bennet’s Nov. 25 letter to President Obama, community leaders in the Browns Canyon area suggested the Antiquities Act path, recognizing the significant economic benefits of the designation for regional tourism-based businesses. Continue reading

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Summit County session to focus on forest management

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What now, forests?

Panel features White River NF chief Scott Fitzwilliams and Colorado State Forest Service director Mike Lester

Staff Report

FRISCO — A lot of seedlings have sprouted since Summit County experienced the biggest pine beetle outbreak that anyone can remember, and the debate over the future of Colorado’s forests is very much alive — how much of the forest can we manage, and how can we make sure that will help forests in the long run?

With the goal of creating more resilient and diverse forests, one aspect of the discussion centers on differences between active and passive management. This week, the Summit County Forest Health Task Force will host a panel discussion on forest management (Nov. 20, 6-8 p.m. at the Summit County Community & Senior Center, County Commons). Continue reading

Forest Service to revisit SoCal wilderness protections

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More wilderness in Southern California?

Roadless lands to be evaluated for wilderness qualities

Staff Report

FRISCO —In a rare administrative reversal, regional U.S. Forest Service officials told the Los Padres National Forest to reconsider its plans for seven roadless areas encompassing more than 220,000 acres in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Kern counties.

The decision directs forest planners to reevaluate the wilderness characteristics of seven areas and clarify how biologists will monitor and protect imperiled wildlife. Continue reading

Will there be a ‘hostile takeover’ of western public lands?

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Federal lands in the U.S. Courtesy Univ. of Montana.

New website offers glimpse of ongoing efforts to ‘de-federalize’ the West

Staff Report

FRISCO — On and off efforts to force the transfer of federally managed public western lands to individual states have grown beyond campaign rhetoric.

These days, there’s a semi-organized effort on the part of lawmakers in several western states to try and take over millions of acres of forests and rangelands. The history of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, with roots in the Reagan era, is outlined in detail on this University of Colorado website. Continue reading

Forest Service busts huge pot farm near Aspen

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The U.S. Forest Service this week eradicated an illegal marijuana growing operation in Colorado.

Feds say illegal marijuana growing is harmful to the environment

Staff Report

FRISCO —Colorado’s legalization of marijuana may mark a new era on the state level, but some things haven’t changed. Each year, profiteering outlaws try to use public lands to grow and harvest marijuana, which remains illegal under federal laws.

This week, law enforcement officers with the U.S. Forest Service eradicated a major pot farm on national forest lands near Ruedi Reservoir after it was reported to the Forest Service by the public. After uprooting more than 2,600 mature plants, Forest Service officials estimated the value of the plants about $6 to $8 million based on the average value of $2,500 per pound. Continue reading

Colorado: Forest Service comment letter shows breadth and depth of impacts from Denver Water’s diversion plan

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More water from the West Slope? Not the best idea, says the U.S. Forest Service. bberwyn photo.

Current plan underestimates impacts to water and wildlife

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — As currently spelled out, Denver Water’s plan to divert more water from the headwaters of the Colorado River will result in unacceptable impacts to wildlife and other resources on publicly owned national forest lands, the U.S. Forest Service wrote in a June 9 comment letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Forest Service also wrote that the creation of a pool of environmental water in an expanded Gross Reservoir doesn’t compensate for the loss of two acres of wetlands and 1.5 miles of stream habitat that will be lost as a result of the expansion. 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

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