Judge says Forest Service violated FOIA in controversial Wolf Creek land exchange


A federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to release more documents related to a controversial land trade and development proposal at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Sloppy search for records related to proposed Colorado resort development put agency in the hot seat

By Bob Berwyn

Conservation advocates battling against plans for a massive resort development at Wolf Creek Pass, in southwestern Colorado, won a partial victory in federal court this week, as a judge ruled that the U.S. Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act and must release more documents related to the approval of a controversial land trade.

The land trade was approved earlier this year by Rio Grande Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas. It would give the developer, Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, a way to access a parcel of private land that’s nearly surrounded by public national forest lands by swapping 205 federal acres for 177 acres of private land. If it stands, the trade would enable construction of a resort village for up to 8,000 people. Continue reading

Study shows national park visitors value dark skies

Light pollution is a growing challenge


Night skies over Arches National Park. Photo courtesy NPS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service says that recent surveys show that efforts to protect nighttime skyscapes from light pollution are valued by park visitors.

A new study, published Sept. 4 in Park Science, suggests that almost 90 percent of visitors to Maine’s Acadia National Park interviewed for the study agreed or strongly agreed with the statements, “Viewing the night sky is important to me” and “The National Park Service should work to protect the ability of visitors to see the night sky.” Continue reading

Environment: Why are Colorado wildlife biologists apologizing for the energy industry?


Mule deer populations in northwest Colorado have taken a bit hit from energy development

‘Just pointing fingers at the energy industry is not a helpful solution to this difficult issue’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A recent study showing that energy development in northwest Colorado significantly affects wildlife habitat drew national attention, and a curious reaction from Colorado’s wildlife agency, which seemed to be apologizing on behalf of the energy industry.

The study showed that the region’s dwindling mule deer population shies well away from active drilling, to a distance of at least 800 meters. Deer displayed more nuanced responses to other infrastructure, avoiding pads with active production and roads to a greater degree during the day than night.

When they added up the impacts, the researchers found that the responses equate to alteration of mule deer behavior by human development in more than 50 percent of the critical winter range in the study area during the day and over 25 percent at night. Continue reading

Yellowstone opens lottery for winter snowmobile permits

Snowmobile use in National Parks is strictly managed, like this tour in Yellowstone, but in some national forests, more management is needed to protect the environment and make sure there are opportunities for quiet, non-motorized use.

Snowmobilers in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Strict rules in place to manage winter motorized use

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under strict new rules for winter travel in Yellowstone National Park, the park service started accepting applications for permits for  non-commercially guided snowmobile trip into the park during the 2015-2016 winter season.

A permit is required for all non-commercially guided snowmobile groups to enter the park. The permits will be allocated through a lottery with applications being accepted online at www.recreation.govv through September 30, 2015. Continue reading

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


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


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

Morning photo: Got ‘shrooms?

Yes, it’s mushroom season in Colorado

FRISCO — I haven’t been posting about mushrooms as often as in past years, but that’s not because I’ve lost my fascination with the curious, ephemeral forest fruits that only appear for a few weeks in summer and early fall. I’ve noticed a general uptick in interest in fungi during the past few years and am hoping that it goes beyond simply harvesting for the table to an appreciation of the incredible role that mushrooms play in forest ecosystems. To advance that appreciation, I suggest checking in with the Colorado Mycological Society, which holds mushroom forays on many summer weekends, when you can learn from experts. Of note, the group will hold its annual mushroom fair this year on Sept. 6 at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Another great chance to learn about mountain mushrooms is at the 19th annual King Bolete Festival in Buena Vista.


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