Public lands access advocates lose latest skirmish with Forest Service over recreation fees

Court says private concession companies don’t have to meet agency standards for recreation fees on public lands

Fee stations like this one at Pine Cove campground near Frisco, Colorado, could become even more common after a federal court exempted private companies from rules governing the application of recreation fees.

Fee stations like this one at Pine Cove campground near Frisco, Colorado, could become even more common after a federal court exempted private companies from rules governing the application of recreation fees.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — One of the legal efforts to try and check the recent proliferation of public land access fees was rebuffed by a federal court in Washington, D.C. last week. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that private companies running recreation facilities on federal lands don’t have to follow the same regulations as agency managed facilities.

In a worst-case scenario, the ruling could open the door to more widespread fees for trailhead parking and other types of access that have traditionally been free, said Kitty Benzar, president of the West Slope No-Fee Coalition, a group dedicated to eliminating fees charged for access and recreation on undeveloped public lands.

Continue reading

Environment: Ambitious Swan River restoration project near Breckenridge could benefit cutthroat trout

Forest Service wants to reconnect an aquatic ecosystem that was sliced apart by dredges in the mining era

Restoration plans are afoot for a degraded section of the Swan River, in Summit County, Colorado.

Restoration plans are afoot for a degraded section of the Swan River, in Summit County, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For all the gold Summit County’s old-timers managed to pull from local mountains and rivers, they left behind quite a mess. Along with toxic pollution oozing into rivers from some abandoned mines, other streams were turned completely inside-out, buried under tons of gravel.

That includes the Swan River, near Breckenridge, where the U.S. Forest Service now hopes to reverse some of the damage with an ambitious five- to 10-year restoration project.

The Forest Service aims to recreate of two miles of stream, riparian, and restore uplands that were all destroyed by the dredge boats. The agency also wants to decommission some roads in the area, build a new road and trail, all within a mix ownership of private, county, town, and national forest lands. Another element of the project would create fish barriers to protect populations of cutthroat trout. Continue reading

Travel: National Forest map app now available for Android, iOS devices

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White River NF map app now available.

New app puts national forest info at your fingertips

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with the many mapping apps already available for smartphones and tablets, the U.S. Forest Service is also putting its popular national forest maps online for Android and iOS devices.

“This mobile app makes it easier than ever to plan your visit to a national forest or grassland,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in a press release. “By putting important forest information right at your fingertips, it will encourage more Americans to get outside and explore their forests.”

The PDF Maps Mobile App, developed by Avenza Systems Inc., is available as a free download from iTunes and the Android Play Store. The app provides access to Forest Service maps, such as motor-vehicle-use maps, which are free while pages from national forest atlases are 99 cents and forest visitor maps are $4.99. Prices are pending for other agency maps.  Continue reading

Summit County eyes winter road closures

New rules would mesh with management of national forest lands

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Summit County officials are considering a request to close parts of several local roads, including Baldy Mountain Road, to winter motorized recreational traffic. Maps of the other roads are online at the Summit County planning department website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Summit County officials will take input on a request to ban winter motorized recreation on three county roads:

  • Gold Run Gulch Road/CR 300 (from the Gold Run Trailhead on the north to the intersection with CR 456 on the south)
  • Baldy Road/CR 520 (from the Baldy Trailhead at Emmet Lode/CR 536 to the road’s terminus on Baldy Mountain)
  • Boreas Pass Road/CR 10 (from the Boreas Pass Trailhead to Boreas Pass)

An open house on the request is set for Nov. 19, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the BOCC Hearing Room at the County Courthouse in Breckenridge. More detailed project information and maps will be available at the open house and can also be found on the Special Projects section of the Summit County Community Development website at: http://www.co.summit.co.us/index.aspx?NID=837. Continue reading

Summit County: Forest Service releases revised plan for 21-mile motorized trail system on Tenderfoot Mountain

Community task force finds common ground on contentious proposal

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The Forest Service says there’s room for 13 miles of new motorized trails on Tenderfoot Mountain, despite the fact that the agency can’t adequately maintain existing trails.

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A family outing near the Dillon Cemetery.

By Bob Berwyn

*Previous Summit Voice stories on the Tenderfoot motorized trail proposal are online here.

FRISCO — Critics are likely to say it’s like putting lipstick on a pig, but the U.S. Forest Service claims its latest version of a plan for a motorized trail on Tenderfoot Mountain, near Dillon, will result in a managed, finite system of sustainable trails to replacing the existing spaghetti network of illegal trails in the area.

The agency this week released a revised environmental study for the controversial trail system, which has been hotly debated for the past several years. According to the Forest Service, the new proposed action represents numerous compromises that were made to mitigate environmental and social concerns. Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Forest Service dismantles illegal marijuana growing operation near Redstone

Cultivation, possession and use still illegal on federal lands in Colorado

illegal marijuana grow site on White River National Forest Colorado.

A U.S. Forest Service workers uproots marijuana plants from an illegal grow site on the White River National Forest, near Redstone, Colorado. Photo courtesy USFS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Forest Service law enforcement rangers say they have finished eradicating an illegal marijuana plantation on the White River National Forest near Redstone, Colorado, but they are still actively investigating the site to try and track down the growers.

According to the Forest Service, there were more than 3,300 plants growing at the site. The plants were probably just a few weeks away from being harvested, said agency spokesman Chris Strebig. The Forest Service estimated the value of the plants at about $8.3 million, based on an average value of $2,500 per pound. Each plant is estimated to yield 1 pound of processed marijuana. Continue reading

Colorado: Summit County forests make big comeback after pine beetle epidemic

Forest Service replanting key areas, monitoring regeneration

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Just a few years after logging projects, forests are making a comeback in areas around Pine Cove campground, near Frisco, Colorado.

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A temporary logging road along the Frisco Peninsula.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With mountain pine beetle populations at their lowest level in 30 years, it’s safe to say that the forest health crisis actually turned out to be a much-needed catharsis for Summit County’s overgrown lodgepole pine forests.

U.S. Forest Service researchers are finding that most of the area hit by the bugs are showing encouraging signs of regrowth. Logged areas are primarily seeing dense lodgepole regeneration, along with some aspens. Non-logged areas are also growing back, and some early data suggests that subalpine fir may replace lodepole pines as the dominant species.

Along with continued logging operations in red zone areas, the U.S. Forest Service has been busy replanting some key areas, notably around campgrounds. Altogether, the agency has planted about a quarter of a million seedlings across the White River National Forest in the last three to four years, according to silviculturist Jan Burke, who has tracked the arc of the beetle infestation. Just this past summer, the Forest Service, with help from volunteer partners, planted about 90,000 trees. Continue reading

Forest Service close to releasing environmental study for proposed new backcountry ski hut near Breckenridge

Public review session set for Aug. 22 at Breckenridge ice rink

Weber Gulch Hut

The Weber Gulch Hut is proposed for the north flank of Baldy Mountain, near Breckenridge, Colorado. Map courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The long range vision for encircling Summit County with a network of backcountry ski huts may come into a little more focus this month.

The White River National Forest is preparing to release a draft environmental study for the proposed Weber Gulch hut during the next few weeks, with a public review of the document set for Aug. 22 (5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m) at the Breckenridge ice rink. Continue reading

Colorado wilderness bills bottled up in Congress

Half a dozen proposals for land protection span more than 1 million acres

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Proposed new wilderness areas include open meadows on the west flank of the Williams Fork Range. bberwyn photo.

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The proposed Acorn Creek wilderness addition would add important wildlife habitat to the existing high-elevation Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area.

By Bob Berwyn

*Click here to learn more about this weekend’s hike in proposed new Summit County wilderness area

SUMMIT COUNTY — There may be a huge backlog of wilderness bills in Congress, but conservation advocates aren’t about to give up on their efforts to preserve public lands in Colorado. Read more about the political wrangling over wilderness in this Summit Voice story.

In fact, the recent oil and gas boom on the Western Slope has recharged wilderness protection efforts, as supporters rally around the new “equal ground” theme, asking President Obama and Congress to protect at least as many acres as are allocated for energy development.

Along with being ecologically important, protected areas are increasingly seen as critical to the region’s recreation economy. Protected areas also enhance property values in adjacent communities.

In Colorado, there are six proposals that would expand wilderness by more than 1 million acres. The biggest is U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette‘s Colorado Wilderness Act, which includes 31 areas for a total of 750,000 acres, including many chunks of mid-elevation lands that are crucial for wildlife. Continue reading

USFS to clean up mine debris near Breckenridge

Agency to remove abandoned buildings and old mining gear

Old mining scars are visible all along French Gulch Road, east of Breckenridge.

Old mining scars are visible all along French Gulch Road, east of Breckenridge, where the U.S. Forest Service is planning a cleanup at the Lincoln Townsite.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service will begin a careful cleanup of mining debris around the historic Lincoln Townsite, near Breckenridge. As part of the agency’s abandoned mine lands safety program, crews will demolish and remove abandoned buildings, sheds and equipment — but five buildings will be left standing at the site after local stakeholders commented on the potential historical value of the structures. Continue reading

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