Congressman plots public lands giveaway

Gotta have one good camping trip every summer!

Some of Utah’s favorite public lands playgrounds could be privatized under a bill to be introduced in Congress this week. @bberwyn photo.

Fracking in national parks?

Staff Report

Given the extreme anti-federal positions gaining traction around the West, it’s probably not surprising that a new bill by advanced Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop was presented as a moderate proposal for public lands compromise by some news outlets.

But his bill, due to be introduced this week, is only moderate when compared to the armed Oregon takeover of public lands by trespassers. By any other measure, it’s one of the most extreme anti-environmental bills that has ever been considered in Washington, D.C. Continue reading

2015 in Review: Public lands

Energy issues drive public lands debates

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Rocky Mountain National Park turned 100 years old in 2015.

Staff Report

The battle over fossil fuel exploitation on public lands heated up in 2015, as environmental advocates launched an aggressive #keepitintheground campaign aimed at convincing the Obama administration to stop issuing leases and permits for oil and gas drilling. But along with the political and environmental battles, there were also some feel-good stories. Right here in Colorado, for example, two beloved tracts of land administered by the National Park Service celebrated centennials. Read more about those birthdays here.

It was a big year for public lands preservation. With Congress gridlocked on many issues, President Obama took the initiative to set aside hundreds of thousands of acres as national monuments under the Antiquities Act, including Browns Canyon, in Colorado. Read more about the creation of Browns Canyon National Monument in these Summit Voice stories, and learn more about President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act here. Continue reading

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

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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

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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

BLM finalizes new management plan for huge tracts of public land in north-central Colorado

Greater sage-grouse get special protection

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A new BLM resource management plan in place for public lands in Grand, Summit, Larimer, Jackson and Eagle counties.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Bureau of Land Management has finalized a new plan for about 378,000 acres of public lands in Grand, Jackson, Summit, Larimer and Eagle counties, managed by the agency’s Kremmling office. The plan also covers management of 653,500 acres of subsurface mineral rights. Continue reading

Feds to hold ‘listening sessions’ on public land coal royalties

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The public will have a chance to weigh in on federal coal mining leasing practices.

Changes to leasing rules would benefit U.S. taxpayers

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a string of reports and investigations made it clear that taxpayers are not getting their fair share of money from coal mining on federally managed public lands, the Department of Interior last week announced it will hold a series of “listening sessions” around the country on the federal coal program.

The stakes are high — in fiscal year 2012, about 42 percent of the 1.05 billion tons of coal produced in the United States came from coal tracts leased under the federal coal leasing program.

One report from an energy think tank concluded that the federal treasury may have missed out on as much as $29 billion over the past 30 years because of the way energy companies and federal land managers account for those royalties. Another recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government’s accounting system does not “provide reasonable assurance that oil and gas are accurately measured.” Continue reading

President Obama designates three new national monuments under the Antiquities Act

Obama has protected more public lands and waters than any other President

This panoramic view of the southwestern United States and Pacific Ocean was taken by an astronaut looking out at an angle from the International Space Station (ISS). While most unmanned satellites view the Earth from a nadir perspective—collecting data while looking “straight down”—astronauts onboard the ISS can acquire imagery at a wide range of viewing angles using handheld digital cameras.

This panoramic view of the southwestern United States and Pacific Ocean was taken by an astronaut looking out at an angle from the International Space Station over the Basin and Range province, part of which is now set aside as a new national monument. Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The three new national monuments designated last week by President Obama under the Antiquities Act will protect more than 1 million acres of public land in Texas, Nevada and California.

With the designations — Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Waco Mammoth in Texas and Basin and Range in Nevada — Obama has established or expanded 19 national monuments, protecting  more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President.

And more than any previous administration, Obama’s land-protection efforts have focused on designating sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio. Continue reading

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