Biodiversity: Another win for bison restoration

Montana court says bison are not livestock

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A Yellowstone bison. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Montana district court judge this month rejected yet another attempt by ranchers to block the restoration of bison in the northern plains. The ranchers sought to have wild bison classified as livestock rather than wildlife, but Montana District Judge John McKeon ruled last week that wild bison are wildlife under state law — regardless of their confinement in quarantine.

A legal classification as livestock would have transferred jurisdiction over quarantined bison from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Livestock—a move that threatened to impede any future efforts to restore native bison as a wildlife species in appropriate portions of their historic habitat.

“This ruling rightly discredits what amounted to a stealth attack on future efforts to restore wild bison in Montana,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation in opposing Citizens for Balanced Use’s argument. “Wild bison are classified as wildlife under Montana law. Now it is time to restore wild bison as wildlife on the Montana landscape.” Continue reading

Colorado: Dinosaur National Monument marks National Park Week with special events and activities

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Dinosaur National Monument is best known for its trove of fossils, but also harbors a great collection of ancient Native American rock art. Photo courtesy NPS.

Stargazing, an Easter Egg hunt and movie screenings all part of the festivities

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dinosaur National Monument, in northwestern Colorado, will celebrate National Park Week with a slew of special activities, including an Easter Egg hunt of the younger set (April 20), a birthday party of sorts for the monument’s famed stegosaurus statue, as well as a twilight tour and stargazing.

“National Park Week is a great time to get out and celebrate your parks. At Dinosaur National Monument, we are excited to welcome visitors from all over the world,” said acting superintendent Mark Foust.”We would especially like to welcome local residents who may not have come out to the monument recently. We are proud to be a part of the local communities and would love to see as many people as possible re-connect with the monument and take advantage of the free admission days to get out and enjoy the quarry area and the canyon country.” Continue reading

Stakeholders move cautiously toward redesignating Colorado National Monument as a national park

Proposal released for local review and comment

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Colorado National Monument. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a year of local input and discussions, Colorado lawmakers this week took the next step toward redesignating Colorado National Monument as Rim Rock Canyons National Park.

U.S. Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat, and Republican Congressman Scott Tipton unveiled a bipartisan proposal driven by community recommendations. According to joint press release from Udall and Tipton, the proposal reflects local residents and stakeholders’ concerns and interests about a possible redesignation.

Continue reading

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.

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Environment: Six more national parks ban sale of disposable water bottles

New policies encourage reduction of solid waste

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Colorado National Monument has banned the sale of disposable plastic water bottles.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Another half-dozen national parks ended the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in 2013, bringing the total number of parks with bans to more than 20.

For most parks, disposable plastic water bottles represent one of the biggest sources of trash, but the move toward ending sales of plastic bottles in national parks has been hampered by resistance from Coca Cola, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The watchdog group has tracked the halting progress of the agency’s move to limit the environmentally damaging bottles. By some estimates, more than 16 million barrels of oil are needed annually to produce the plastic for all the disposable bottles sold in the U.S. in one year. That production process also requires twice the amount of water that’s actually contained within the bottles.

Continue reading

Travel: Government shutdown blamed for big drop in national park visits

Government dysfunction hurts gateway towns near parks

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Visits to National Parks in the U.S. fell slightly in 2013, mainly due to the government shutdown in October, when the National Park Service turned away millions of visitors.

In total, 273.6 million total visits were recorded during the year at the 401 parks, down 9.1 million visits from 2012. The shutdown also resulted in an estimated loss of $414 million in visitor spending in gateway and local communities across the country when comparing October 2013 to a three-year average (October 2010-12). Continue reading

Study says invasive Everglades pythons are not much of a threat to humans

A Burmese python caught in the Florida Everglades. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

A Burmese python caught in the Everglades. Photo by USFWS.

Most attacks on humans may be cases of mistaken identity

Staff Report

FRISCO — There’s good news and bad news from the Everglades. Invasive Burmese pythons now number in the tens of thousands and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

The good news is, those pythons apparently don’t pose much of a threat to humans, according to an assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service scientists.

The human risk assessment looked at five incidents that involved humans and Burmese pythons over a 10-year period in Everglades National Park. All five incidents involved pythons striking at biologists who were conducting research in flooded wetlands. Continue reading

Travel: National Parks boost healthy, sustainable food

The cafeteria at Muir Woods National Monument in California showcases organic, locally produced foods.

The cafeteria at Muir Woods National Monument in California showcases organic, locally produced foods. bberwyn photo.

New guidelines also encourage shift to locally produced food

By Bob Berwyn

Hot dogs and hamburgers will remain on the menu at 250 national park snack bars and restaurants, but 23 million park visitors are also finding healthier options like fish tacos and yogurt parfaits.

The changes come under a new two-part set of rules finalized in April 2013 and  rolled out across the country this summer.

“Park visitors are going to  see really tasty choices that are healthy for them, with sustainable attributes, some regionality and a softer environmental footprint,” said Kurt Rausch, a National Park Service contracting specialist who helped develop the new guidelines for businesses offering food sales in parks. Continue reading

Travel: 9 free days at U.S. National Parks in 2014!

Your lands: 84 million acres, 17,000 miles of trails

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Badlands National Park, South Dakota. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — This year, you’ll have nine chances for a fee-free visit to one of America’s 401 national parks, starting as soon as Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 20, 2014). The park service recently announced the 2014 schedule of free days, offering the fee-free visits as a way to encourage visitation.

The 2014 entrance fee-free days are:

Dwindling Denali wolves raise tourism concerns

wolf population across the 6 million acre park and preserve declined from 143 in fall 2007 to just 55 in spring 2013

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS Photo / Nathan Kostegian.

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS/Nathan Kostegian.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — An arbitrary decision by the Alaska Board of Game to allow wolf hunting and trapping near Denali National Park has cut the regional wolf population by nearly two-thirds and significantly reduced opportunities for park visitors to see wolves in the wild — one of the main reasons people go to Denali in the first place.

This year, fewer than 5 percent of park visitors were able to see wolves, down from about 45 percent back in 2000, according to National Park Service statistics obtained by a federal government watchdog group.

“This precipitous decline in wildlife viewing success appears to be unprecedented in the history of the national park system,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and a Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility board member. Continue reading

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