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Op-ed: Ski industry bullies USFS on water rights

Proposed new water rule in the works for western ski areas

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Oh, oh, the water … bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — After being bullied by the ski industry in court and legislative arenas, the U.S. Forest Service has decided to shift its approach to administering valuable water rights associated with ski area operations in western states.

Instead of requiring resorts to transfer water rights, the Forest Service now proposes adding language to ski area permits that would ensure that enough water remains linked to ensure future operations. The water rights could not be sold separately from other resort assets like chairlifts and lodges.

That would address the main concern the Forest Service voiced when it first proposed changes to the administration of water rights a few years ago, but doesn’t address the bigger issue of resorts trying to establish total control over public resources. Continue reading

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Fundraising update: So much love for indie #journalism!

Grassroots support helps fund independent environmental reporting

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Most months, Summit Voice has readers from all over the world!

Independent journalism isn’t free. Support Colorado Environmental Reporting!

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By Bob Berwyn

I’m posting a HUGE round of thanks to readers from all over Colorado and the West for responding to our fundraising call the last two weeks. Thanks to supporters like Linda Johnson, Tad Foster, Catherine Shafroth, Peter Hall and others, we’ll be able to report more in-depth environmental stories.  We’ll soon update our permanent sponsor page with the names of our new supporters and at the same time thank past sponsors like the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and Innovative Energy.

Summit Voice leads the way on coverage of issues like the  U.S. Forest Service ‘pay-to-play’ recreation fee program.  And there aren’t many other sources offering sustained coverage of Colorado and Rocky Mountain wildlife and endangered species issues, including the ongoing recovery of lynx in Colorado, and efforts to bring back wolverine.

We need your support to keep documenting the environmental stories of the Rocky Mountains. We welcome any size donation and would really appreciate you spreading the word via email and virtual social circles.

Your support also enables me to broaden the environmental coverage by publishing intelligent journalism in other independent publications. Today (June 15), for example, I was able to provide the very first glimpse at Denver’s new climate adaptation plan, set to be published this week. Last week I wrote about a Boulder-based climate researcher who saw first-hand the effects of Colorado’s Sept. 2013 floods.

Reader and contributor Linda Johnson asked about a crowdfunded study on winter ozone formation and that story is in the works. Meanwhile, we’re happy to report that the team did reach its $12,000 fundraising goal, which means more good science to help guide policies on energy development.

And supporter Peter Hall suggested some educational stories about Colorado’s “split estate,” a quirky mineral law that does nothing but heighten the tension between property owners and fossil fuel companies. Peter was kind enough to even suggest a few specific sources, so we should be able to report a story or two in the next few weeks.

Thanks again for all your support!

 

Opinion: Letter from western governors a misguided, muddled attempt to hijack national forest management

Let science, not politics, guide forest management

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One man’s healthy forest is another man’s tree farm. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Flying in the face of science, the Western Governors’ Association last week called on the U.S. Forest Service to do more logging in an effort to promote forest health.

The letter, signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Utah Gov. Gary. R. Herbert, also seems to suggest that privatizing some activities on publicly owned national forest lands could help address what they called a forest health crisis — without a single mention of global warming or the crucial restorative role of wildfires in forest ecosystems. Continue reading

Essay: A mountain town Christmas

“It’s Christmas. Build community and invite your guests to be part of it. Be real. Hold on to your culture. Don’t be afraid to let your spiritual values shine through. Celebrate the mountains for the joy and comfort they give. Protect the forests and the streams. Nurture your children and give them hope.”

“Kohlmaisbahn” in Saalbach-Hinterglemm (Austria), background:The village and the Schattberg and Zwoelferkogel, the dominant ski peaks in the valley. Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons, Share-Alike attribution.

By Bob Berwyn

Christmas and skiing have been inextricably linked for me ever since I was an “army brat” growing up in Frankfurt, Germany. The classroom Christmas party on the last day of school (yes, we called it that back on the pre-politically correct days) wasn’t nearly as exciting as the thought that we’d soon be on starting our annual two-week ski vacation to Austria.

Sometimes there was snow on the ground; slushy, dirty city snow that splattered as the cars passed by. But more often than not, it was just gray and dreary, and my heart always skipped a beat when that finned, white 1960 Chevy Impala rolled up. Everything fit in the trunk of our classic American car, even our two-meter-plus skis, so there was plenty of room for my brother and I to sprawl in the back seat. No fast food stops for us — there was no McDonalds or Burger King along the way, so we ate well; cold schnitzels  my mom had made earlier that day, or open-faced sausage sandwiches with tangy pickles, carrot sticks and wedges of green bell peppers.

Sometimes we dozed, but more often than not, we were still awake when we slowed to a stop at the border, where customs officials in long, thick wool coats decorated with epaulets scanned our green U.S. passports, then waved us through with a friendly smile and a “Merry Christmas.”

The mountainous frontier south of Munich was the gateway to snow country.  By the glow of the headlights, we gauged the depth of the berm alongside the road to get an idea of how the skiing would be. Here the road narrowed and twisted through a river-carved canyon, mysterious and new each time we made the trip. Our destination was Saalbach, then a small, up and coming ski village that has since succumbed to the same development pressures that have afflicted so many mountain communities during the past few decades. Continue reading

Opinion: Global warming comes out of the closet

The remnants of Sandy swirl over the Northeast in the NASA satellite image.

Hurricane Sandy spurs awareness of  links between climate change and extreme weather

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Along with devastating New Jersey’s shoreline and flooding big chunks of New York City, Hurricane Sandy also pushed the public dialogue about climate change out of the musty closet and right smack into the middle of polite dinner table conversation and, even more importantly, into the political arena, just days before the presidential election.

After a couple of days surveying the damage, both the mayor of New York City and the governor of New York directly addressed the issue in a social and political context. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, factored climate change into a political endorsement of Barack Obama as the candidate better equipped to tackle the issue.

“In In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods — something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable,” Bloomberg wrote in an editorial for the Bloomberg View. Continue reading

Opinion: Global warming takes toll on Colorado forests

Climate change outpacing most predictions

Dead lodgepole pine forests dominate many Summit County vistas. Bob Berwyn photo.

by Howard Hallman and Brad Piehl

It doesn’t take a scientist to understand the connection between climate change and forest fires. Last spring was hot and dry, which resulted in a dry forest that easily burns. This should not surprise us. What is surprising is the pace of climate change and the damage it has already caused to our forests and communities.

A vast majority of American scientists now recognize climate change as a threat to our nation’s well-being. Their findings are supported by decades of top-notch research. The climate is changing at the pace of many of the worst-case predictions from five to 10 years ago. Last year there were thousands of new record high temperatures across America. Severe drought conditions devastated millions of acres of crop and grazing land. Acres burned by catastrophic wildfire have increased significantly over the last several decades. Continue reading

GOP message: ‘We’re more American than you’

Opinion: GOP offers flawed interpretation of ‘American exceptionalism’

Mitt Romney. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Barack Obama. Photo courtesy Daniel Borman via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

 By Bob Berwyn

Republicans are recycling the theme of American exceptionalism as part of their campaign to win the White House and take control of the U.S. Senate. I applaud the recycling as possibly the only part of the GOP platform that’s environmentally friendly, but take issue with their efforts to co-opt Americanism as political campaign weapon.

There’s a subtle but persistent message trying to convince voters that Republicans are somehow “more American” than Democrats. It’s an election tactic that may play well with part of the electorate, but it’s fundamentally divisive and destroys the consensus needed to govern, regardless of which party controls the White House and Congress.

It starts with the low-level background buzz questioning the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate and peaks with a nationalistic war cry that seems to put us on a path toward yet another bloody Middle East confrontation with Iran, based on an antiquated and unrealistic interpretation of foreign relations, with the U.S. as a militaristic world policeman. The Republican vision of American exceptionalism is based on the myth of the lone gunman — that’s why Clint Eastwood was a speaker at the GOP convention. Continue reading

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