Posted on November 5, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Some of the most spectacular landscapes in the Southwest will get a reprieve from the impacts of motorized use, as a federal court rejected an ill-conceived BLM management plan in eastern Utah. bberwynphoto.
Court ruling repudiates Bush-era policies that favored exploitation over preservation
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A federal court this week rejected a bush-era land management plan in Utah, requiring the Bureau of Land Management to go back and consider the destructive impacts of motorized use in some of the state most cherished wild areas.
The Richfield-area resource management plan had designated more than 4,200 miles of dirt roads and trails, enough miles to drive from Atlanta to Anchorage, for ORV vehicle use despite evidence of environmental damage and conflicts with other public lands visitors.
According to environmental groups, the plan prioritized motorized recreation, threatening world-famous southern Utah wilderness landscapes like the Dirty Devil Canyon complex (including Butch Cassidy’s infamous hideout, Robber’s Roost), the Henry Mountains (the last mountain range to be mapped in the lower 48 states) and Factory Butte. Continue reading
Filed under: BLM, Environment, public lands | Tagged: Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Bureau of Land management, Dirty Devil Canyon, Henry Mountains, Richfield area RMP, Utah | Leave a comment »
Posted on October 23, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Large-scale solar could add to the state’s renewable energy mix
Solar energy zones around the southwestern U.S. would yield thousands of megawatts of electricity if fully developed. Click on the map to visit a BLM website with links to detailed maps of the specific areas.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — After years of planning, the Bureau of Land Management is holding the first competitive auction for development of solar energy on public lands in Colorado.
Under Ken Salazar‘s leadership, the U.S. Department of Interior established a regulatory framework for solar development with a programmatic study that resulted in the designation of solar energy zones.
The Oct. 23 auction will award preference rights to submit a right-of-way application and a plan of development for commercial solar energy projects on three parcels of BLM-administered land, totaling 3,705 acres, in Conejos and Saguache counties in South Central Colorado. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, energy, Environment, renewable energy | Tagged: BLM, BLM solar auction, Bureau of Land management, Colorado, public lands, Renewable energy in the United States, solar energy | Leave a comment »
Posted on August 18, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.
FRISCO — These days, the vast sagebrush ocean of the Intermountain West is under siege by drilling rigs, sprawling exurban development and, in some cases, poor grazing practices on public lands.
Altogether, those pressures have degraded habitat across big swaths of the landscape. The damage is reflected by the sharp decline in greater sage-grouse populations. The birds have disappeared from half of their former range and are a candidate for the endangered species list, likely to be designated as threatened or endangered.
The listing could come as soon as 2015 — unless federal land managers and local governments can agree on a conservation plan with enough safeguards to satisfy the biologists who will consider the listing.
The Bureau of Land Management, which administers much of the territory with key sage-grouse habitat, is working toward that goal in the west-wide National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Effort, and last week released a draft environmental study for northwestern Colorado for a 90-day comment period. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, BLM, endangered species, Environment, public lands, US Forest Service | Tagged: biodiversity, BLM, Bureau of Land management, Colorado, endangered species act, Greater sage-grouse, Intermountain West, public lands, Wilderness Society | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 28, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Potential oil shale and tar sands development areas in the Green River formation of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.
Conservation groups say BLM missed key step in environmental study
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — A federal plan to develop oil shale and tar sands across about 800,000 acres of public lands in the West is missing a key piece, according to conservation groups, who say the Bureau of Land Management should have consulted with federal wildlife biologists before finalizing a major environmental study.
At issue are 9 BLM resource management plans in the Green River Formation of the Colorado River Basin, spread across parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Several months ago, the BLM approved changes in those plans with a single programmatic environmental impact statement. The changes make 687,600 acres available for oil shale leasing and 132,100 acres available for tar sands leasing. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, energy, Environment, global warming, oil shale | Tagged: Bureau of Land management, climate change, Colorado River, endangered species act, Environment, Green River Formation, oil shale, tar sands | 1 Comment »
Posted on July 4, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
The fire danger is currently rated as high in most of Colorado’s north-central mountains.
BLM lands in NW Colorado already under Stage 1 fire restrictions
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — After a bone-dry June, some public land managers in Colorado are starting to enact fire restrictions to lessen the chances of a human-caused wildfire start.
Summit County only picked up about 15 percent of the long-term average precipitation in June, for example with .19 inches at the official National Weather Service site in Dillon, compared to the average 1.14 inches. High temperatures for the month were about 4 degrees above average.
The White River National Forest (Eagle and Summit counties) hasn’t issued any restrictions yet, but lands administered by Bureau of Land Management in parts of northwest Colorado have been under Stage 1 restrictions since June 27. Continue reading
Filed under: BLM, climate and weather, Colorado, Drought, forest fires, public lands, Summit County Colorado, Summit County news, US Forest Service, wildfires | Tagged: BLM, Bureau of Land management, Colorado, Colorado fire danger, Colorado fire restrictions, Colorado wildfires, White River National Forest | Leave a comment »
Posted on June 18, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Congress will take input on the controversial federal pay-to-play program this week.
Critics say loopholes enable federal agencies to charge illegal fees
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — The federal pay-to-play program will get a once-over in Congress this week, as a House subcommittee hears from agency officials and citizens before the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act expires next year.
At issue are how the fee program for access to public lands is being implemented by federal agencies. The hearing is set to start at 10 a.m. EDT and should be available as webcast via the House Committee on Natural Resources website.
The access fees started in the late 1990s as the so-called fee demo program, enabling federal land agencies to charge fees as long the money was used to improve the area where it was collected. Continue reading
Filed under: biking, camping, Colorado, federal government, hiking, recreation, US Forest Service | Tagged: Bureau of Land management, Congress, Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, FLREA, pay-to-play, public lands, United States Forest Service, US Forest Service | 3 Comments »
Posted on June 12, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Loading coal in the Powder River Basin. Photo by USGS.
IG report shows flaws in leasing program
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The fossil fuel industry — specifically Big Coal — is shafting Americans every which way, from spewing heat-trapping greenhouses gases into the atmosphere to underpaying the federal government for the coal it takes from the Powder River Basin.
A report by the Department of Interior’s Inspector General found that U.S. taxpayers are likely losing tens of millions of dollars on bids from mining corporations as a result of a federal leasing program that undervalues the price of coal.
Even though the agency has a legal obligation to the American public to secure a fair market value for coal, it is not meeting its responsibilities to taxpayers, according to grassroots watchdog groups. Continue reading
Filed under: BLM, energy, Environment, public lands | Tagged: Arch Coal, BLM coal leasing, Bureau of Land management, Peabody Energy, Powder River Basin, United States Department of the Interior | Leave a comment »
Posted on June 7, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
After 2 years of stakeholder discussion, feds set to finalize rules for one of Colorado’s newest wilderness areas
Hiking the canyons of southwestern Colorado’s Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. Photo courtesy BLM.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Along with world-famous national parks and high alpine wilderness areas managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado also harbors some lesser-known, but equally spectacular lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management as National Conservation Lands.
The BLM is currently in the process of taking comments on a draft resource management plan for one of those areas — The 210,012-acre Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, which includes the 66,280-acre Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, designated in 2009. The plan will provide a framework to guide subsequent management decisions on approximately 210,000 acres administered by the BLM in Delta, Mesa and Montrose counties of western Colorado. Continue reading
Filed under: Archaeology, biodiversity, BLM, Colorado, Environment, public lands | Tagged: Bureau of Land management, Colorado, Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, national conservation lands, Uncompahgre Plateau | Leave a comment »
Posted on May 16, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
BLM wants to update 30-year-old fracking regs.
Common sense steps address some environmental and health concerns
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — An updated set of draft rules for fracking on public and Indian lands includes several common-sense safeguards that will help protect the human health and safety, as well as the environment. For starters, the rule requires disclosure of the chemicals used for fracking, a key measure that ensures transparency and gives the public some assurance.
The proposed rule beefs up standards meant to insure well bore-integrity, which will help verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater. Operators must also have a plan in place for handling fluids that flow back to the surface.
About 90 percent of wells drilled on Federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, but the Bureau of Land Management’s current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. Continue reading
Filed under: BLM, energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling, public lands | Tagged: BLM, Bureau of Land management, energy, Environment, fossil fuels, fracking, hydraulic fracturing, Indian reservation, Interior Department, public lands | 1 Comment »
Posted on April 29, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Conservation report outlines steps to mitigate potential impacts
Oil and gas drilling near national parks could affect air and water quality in pristine, protected areas. Photo courtesy National Park Service.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — After years of watching federal agencies haphazardly issuing leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands near national parks, conservation advocates say it’s time for a more systematic approach.
With the Bureau of Land Management currently updating national guidelines, the National Parks Conservation Association has outlined potential threats to parks in a new report.
“Our national parks are America’s most treasured places, and we need to treat them carefully as we develop the nation’s natural gas and oil,” said NPCA Vice President for the Center for Park Research Jim Nations. “Our research revealed that some national parks are already in peril. Unless we take quick action, air, water, and wildlife will experience permanent harm in other national parks as well.” Continue reading
Filed under: air quality, energy, Environment, fracking, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: BLM, Bureau of Land management, energy, Environment, fracking, Glacier National Park, Grand Teton National Park, National Park Service, national parks, National Parks Conservation Association | 4 Comments »