Forest Service delays final decision on controversial Wolf Creek land trade and development scheme

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A proposed resort development near Wolf Creek Pass and the nearby ski area would irrevocably change the character of the area for the worse.

Conservation advocates vow all-out battle to halt unwanted backcountry development

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service will take an extra 30 days to scrutinize a controversial land trade that would open the door for construction of a full-scale resort village near Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.

In November, Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas approved the swap, triggering a 45-day objection period. Now, Deputy Regional Forester Maribeth Gustafson is extending the objection resolution period for 30 days. Read a detailed story on the proposed trade here. Continue reading

Colorado fracking industry files formal objection to White River National Forest oil and gas plan

Drillers say restrictions will hinder exploitation of new shale plays to the detriment of local communities

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Most oil and gas development on the White River National Forest is limited to the far western zones in areas where drilling is already common.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Even though the vast majority of public lands in the West are already open for fossil fuel exploitation, oil and gas companies want more.

In their latest push for more drilling, three fracking industry lobbying groups are challenging the White River National Forest’s oil and gas drilling plan, claiming that the agency’s analysis was marred by politics, as elected officials pushed to have the Thompson Divide area excluded from energy development.

In their formal objection to the plan, the groups ( Western Energy Alliance, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Public Lands Advocacy) the groups said that, as written, the document could prevent the development of speculative new plays in Mancos and Niobrara shale formations in western Colorado. Continue reading

Aerial survey shows pine beetles waning, but spruce beetles continue to spread across Colorado forests

Aerial surveys help track forest changes over time

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Nearly every mature spruce has been killed by spruce beetle in this drainage on the Rio Grande National Forest.Photo: Brian Howell.

Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in southwestern Colorado.

Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in southwestern Colorado. Graph courtesy USFS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There’s good news and bad news from Colorado’s forests. Mountain pine beetle activity has faded to the lowest level since 1996, but spruce beetles continue to spread in the San Juans and in northwestern Colorado.

The spruce beetle outbreak was detected on 485,000 acres in 2014, compared to 398,000 acres across the state in 2013, according to the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service. The annual aerial survey by the two agencies shows that the spruce beetle outbreak expanded to 253,000 new acres. Continue reading

Copper Mountain set to build new Tucker Mountain lift

Copper wants to build the Tucker Mountain lift this summer.

Copper wants to build the Tucker Mountain lift this summer.

Forest Service taking comments on ski area proposals at Copper, Breckenridge

Staff Report

FRISCO — At long last, Copper Mountain Resort is set to move ahead with installation of a new lift on the north side of Tucker Mountain. The lift was originally approved in 2006, but according to the January 5 scoping notice from the U.S. Forest Service, the exact path of the lift has changed slightly.

The agency will take comments on the proposal through Jan. 30 via email at wrnf_scoping_comments@fs.fed.us. Continue reading

Colorado: Feds eye fee increase for Vail Pass winter use

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Snowmobiling at Vail Pass.

Season pass would increase to $100

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service wants to increase winter day use recreation fees at Vail Pass by a whopping 30 percent, from $6 to $9, while the price of a season pass would rise from $40 to $100.

The current fees have been in place for more than 10 years and the agency says it’s facing increased management costs in the heavily used recreation area. Continue reading

Skiing: Forest Service taking input on proposed Snowmass Ski Area improvements

Glading, lift upgrades eyed in draft environmental study

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Snowmass to upgrade the High Alpine lift, add new snowmaking and expand gladed terrain.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service is looking for public input on a slate of proposed improvements at Snowmass Ski Area, including replacement/realignment of the High Alpine Chairlift, additional snowmaking coverage, and trail and glade projects. Continue reading

What drives extreme fires? It’s mostly the weather

Forest Service scientists study aftermath of Rim Fire to assess effectiveness of forest health treatments

A NASA Earth Observatory image shows smoke plumes from the Rim Fire in August, 2013. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.

A NASA Earth Observatory image shows smoke plumes from the Rim Fire in August, 2013. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A detailed new study of fire behavior of the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite provides a nuanced view of the effectiveness of forest health treatments.

The Rim Fire was the largest recorded fire in the Sierra Nevada region, and U.S. Forest Service researchers said in their study that the fire burned with moderate to high intensity on days the Rim Fire was dominated by a large pyro-convective plume, a powerful column of smoke, gases, ash, and other debris — regardless of the number of prior fires, topography, or forest conditions. Continue reading

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