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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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Wildlife: Bear encounters already reported in Aspen area

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The U.S. Forest Service is trying to get a jump on unwanted bear encounters in the Aspen area. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Forest Service orders campers to keep food in sealed storage bins at campgrounds

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A spate of bear encounters in the Aspen area has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to require campers to store their food, cooking equipment, cooking utensils, and coolers in bear-resistant containers, such as a closed, locked vehicle or a food locker.

The order affects all developed recreation sites on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District in the upper Roaring Fork Valley of Pitkin County including the designated campsites along Lincoln Creek and Castle Creek. Nineteen sites on the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District in Eagle County are also included.

The Forest Service is trying to get an early handle on unwanted encounters after a series of incidents in late May, when a large bear approached campers at one or more camp sites and was undeterred by human presence, shouting, car horns, and other noise and commotion.

One camper reported that the bear tried to open a car door with people and a dog inside. Other campers that improperly stored food and garbage probably played a major role in these incidents. When bears associate food and garbage with humans and their belongings, they will become habituated to the human environment.

The food storage order helps break the bear’s link between human presence and a possible reward of food or garbage. If bears don’t get rewarded, their natural behavior is to avoid humans and their belongings. Compared to natural foods that bears eat in the wilds, human foods and garbage have a tremendous amount of calories, fat, and nutrients.

Any odorous substance can attract bears, including garbage and refuse, cooking oil, dirty dishes, and toiletries.  It is important to prevent bears from associating any such odors with people.

Violators could be fined up to $5,000 or up to six months in prison. Visit the White River National Forest online to get more information on national forest lands camping and addresses and telephone numbers for local ranger stations.

Travel: BLM improving campgrounds in western Colorado

Popular Rabbit Valley campground enlarged

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The BLM is improving some facilities in the popular McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, west of Grand Junction, Colorado. Photo courtesy BLM.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Campers in western Colorado will have more options this summer, as the Bureau of Land Management quadruples the size of the Rabbit Valley Campground, from four spots to 16.

The campground, in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction, will be closed for several weeks while the work — including two new group campsites — is under way. The campground road will be improved, and each campsite will now have a tent pad, fire ring and picnic table.

“Rabbit Valley is a great place to car camp, and these improvements are designed to enhance the camping experience for visitors,” said Ben Blom, acting National Conservation Area manager for the BLM Grand Junction Field Office. Continue reading

Colorado: Bears getting hungry as they prepare for a long winter’s nap; wildlife managers urge caution

A hungry bear climbs into a Dumpster in search of food. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Forest Service orders special precautions in Vail area

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Numerous encounters between people and bears in the high country have prompted the White River National Forest to require campers to store all food and refuse in a bear-resistant container or inside a vehicle in a sealed container.

“Due to a lack of forage bears are on the hunt for alternative sources of food, campsites and picnic areas can appear, to a bear, an easy target,” said Eagle Holy Cross deputy district ranger Matt McCombs.

“We’ve had multiple encounters at our campgrounds where bears have been rewarded for their efforts … putting their safety and campers at risk.”  McCombs said, “With fall on its way and bears stocking up before hibernation, ensuring campers are being bear aware is the best way to keep everyone safe.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Summer!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy …

Summer starts with the solstice, the longest day of the year, photographed at Loveland Pass, Colorado, 11,999 feet above the sea.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Mid-July is definitely the height of the summer season pretty much anywhere in the northern hemisphere, so when #FriFotos host and founder @EpsteinTravels announced this week’s theme for the popular Twitter chat, I zipped through the archives to find a few shots from this summer, as well as year’s past. And as much as I love cold powder snow and skiing, there’s something to be said for being able to go outside without putting on multiple layers, hats, gloves … you know what I mean, right? Join in the fun by uploading pics to Twitter and tagging them with #FriFotos.

The Tiki Bar at the Dillon Marina is definitely a good place to celebrate the summer season.

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Colorado: Hungry bear forces Aspen camping restrictions

Some bears look cute and cuddly from afar, but they can cause trouble when habituated to humans and human food. PHOTO COURTESY USFSW.

Forest Service temporarily limits camping to hard-sided campers at Difficult campground

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — He might not be quite as smart as Yogi, but a black bear in the Aspen area seems to know that a campground might be an easy place to score a free meal.

Repeated sightings of the bear in the Difficult Campground, 6 miles east of the Aspen, have prompted Forest Service officials to enact camping restrictions, with to tents or soft-sided trailers or campers permitted for the time being. As per normal precautions, all unattended food and coolers must be contained in a bear box or locked vehicle and all garbage must be disposed of in trash containers. Continue reading

Summit County: Green Mountain campground work starts

Access to Cow Creek South campground to be improved; project will result in some lane closures and delays along Highway 9

The U.S. Forest Service is starting work on improvements at Cow Creek South campground, on the shore of Green Mountain Reservoir. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A big chunk of federal stimulus dollars are finally hitting the ground in Summit County, as crews begin improving the access from Highway 9 into  the Cow Creek South campground at Green Mountain Reservoir. The Dillon District was awarded $1.474 million dollars for the project.

The new intersection includes deceleration lanes to improve safety at the junction. The project also includes construction of twelve campsites and two campground host sites at the campground.
Work hours for the new campground intersection project will be Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. No work on State Highway 9 is scheduled on weekends or holidays, including Labor Day, when work will temporarily be suspended.

We regret any inconvenience from traffic delays or loss of camping at Cow Creek South the public may experience during this time,” said Jan Cutts, Dillon District Ranger for the Forest Service. “This short term impact will result in a far safer and more enjoyable recreation experience in the long run.” Continue reading

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