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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

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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

Wildlife: Bear encounters already reported in Aspen area

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The U.S. Forest Service is trying to get a jump on unwanted bear encounters in the Aspen area. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Forest Service orders campers to keep food in sealed storage bins at campgrounds

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A spate of bear encounters in the Aspen area has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to require campers to store their food, cooking equipment, cooking utensils, and coolers in bear-resistant containers, such as a closed, locked vehicle or a food locker.

The order affects all developed recreation sites on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District in the upper Roaring Fork Valley of Pitkin County including the designated campsites along Lincoln Creek and Castle Creek. Nineteen sites on the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District in Eagle County are also included.

The Forest Service is trying to get an early handle on unwanted encounters after a series of incidents in late May, when a large bear approached campers at one or more camp sites and was undeterred by human presence, shouting, car horns, and other noise and commotion.

One camper reported that the bear tried to open a car door with people and a dog inside. Other campers that improperly stored food and garbage probably played a major role in these incidents. When bears associate food and garbage with humans and their belongings, they will become habituated to the human environment.

The food storage order helps break the bear’s link between human presence and a possible reward of food or garbage. If bears don’t get rewarded, their natural behavior is to avoid humans and their belongings. Compared to natural foods that bears eat in the wilds, human foods and garbage have a tremendous amount of calories, fat, and nutrients.

Any odorous substance can attract bears, including garbage and refuse, cooking oil, dirty dishes, and toiletries.  It is important to prevent bears from associating any such odors with people.

Violators could be fined up to $5,000 or up to six months in prison. Visit the White River National Forest online to get more information on national forest lands camping and addresses and telephone numbers for local ranger stations.

Outdoors: Forest Service touts June 8 fee-free day

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Get out on and play on public lands this coming Saturday, June 8, because it’s fee-free day.

Public land agencies promote outdoor activities

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Four times a year, the U.S. Forest Service “gives” you something that’s already yours — free access to public lands that you own.

The next fee-free day is coming up in just a week (June 8), when you won’t have to pay to park and hike in areas that were funded by taxpayers in the first place. The other days are Sept. 28 for National Public Lands Day and Nov. 9-11 for Veterans Day Weekend.

“The country’s forests and grasslands beckon people from coast to coast to come hike, bike, fish and camp this weekend,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “A tank of gas can give you memories with family and friends that will last a lifetime. It’s worth the trip.” Continue reading

Colorado: USFS permits ‘Mad Max’ camp site at Officer’s Gulch

Logging company leaves numerous spills, damaged vegetation

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Fuel containers used by a logging crew at Officers Gulch have been leaking. So far, the cleanup has consisted of dumping sawdust on top of the spill. Bob Berwyn photo.

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Fuel leakage from a generator at Officers Gulch.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Forest Service officials with the Dillon Ranger District said they will investigate several small oil spills at a long-term logging camp at the abandoned campground at Officers Gulch.

The agency authorized the logging crew’s stay at the site, where several people lived in campers most of the winter and stored equipment and fuel. In one area, diesel fuel leakage from an old generator spilled off the pavement and into the forest and other spills of unknown materials are visible in the camping area.

In other places, numerous limbs were slashed off young lodgepole pines, presumably to give large trucks room to maneuver in and out. In other spots, snowplows used to clear access to the site in the winter uprooted willow bushes and broke down other trees. Continue reading

Outdoors: Forest Service adds ‘new’ trails in Summit County

Some of the "new" trails on national forest lands in Summit County lead to hidden coves along the shore of Dillon Reservoir.

Some of the “new” trails on national forest lands in Summit County lead to hidden coves along the shore of Dillon Reservoir.

Travel management plan update results in some user-created trails becoming an official part of the trail network

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — If you’ve never heard of the Hippo Trail or the Bodhi Trail, don’t feel too bad. Both are newly named trail segments in Summit County that have just recently been formally added to the national forest trail system managed by the U.S. Forest Service’s Dillon Ranger District.

Many of the user-created have been popular with locals for years, but now they’re officially on the map, said Ken Waugh, recreation staff officer for the district.

“Many of these have never been maintained and have not been on District maps,” Waugh said, adding that the Forest Service is making an outreach effort to let hikers and cyclists know about the new trails.

As part of that effort, the Dillon District is preparing Recreation Opportunity Guides for these new trails. The one-page sheets  have a map on one side and information about the trails on the other. When they’re done, they’ll be posted online at this White River National Forest website. Some of the guides are already posted at www.dillonrangerdistrict.com. The guides include directions to the trailhead, mileage, range in elevation, difficulty, and trail highlights. They’re also avaiable at the USFS visitor center in Silverthorne. Continue reading

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