U.S. Forest Service moves toward permitting more coal mining in Colorado’s North Fork Valley

Roadless rule exemption at issue in federal permitting process


A U.S. Forest Service proposal to permit more coal mining in Colorado would unleash huge amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution.

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service wants to update a public lands rule that would re-open the door for new coal mining on about 20,000 acres in south-central Colorado’s North Fork Valley, near Paonia. The agency this week posted a federal register notice seeking comment on a proposal to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule.

The proposal comes about a year after a federal court set aside the exemption after finding that the Forest Service failed to disclose greenhouse gas emissions associated with potential mine operations and the combustion of coal from the area. Find the federal register notice and information on commenting here. Continue reading

Forest Service stalls on Wolf Creek land trade order


A federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to release more documents related to a controversial land trade and development proposal at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Controversial swap would enable massive development project at Wolf Creek Pass

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service continues to delay the release of records related to a controversial land trade in southwestern Colorado.

Last week, a federal court granted the agency’s request for a 30-day extension to turn over letters, memos and other documents from a long-running review of the Wolf Creek land trade — a swap that would enable a massive resort development in the middle of an important wildlife area.

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel ruled that the Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act and ordered the agency to release the documents on the controversial land trade by Oct. 30. Conservation groups critical of the trade say the paper trail may show that the decision-making process was tainted by political influence. Continue reading

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper challenges State Attorney General over federal environmental rule lawsuits


Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says only he has the power to decide whether to sue the federal government over environmental regulations. @bberwyn photo.

Petition to Colorado Supreme Court seeks clarity 

By Bob Berwyn

In a petition to the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says the state’s attorney general has wasted taxpayer dollars and undermined the authority of the executive branch by joining a series of lawsuits against the federal government.

Specifically, Hickenlooper said Attorney General Cynthia Coffman didn’t have the authority to enmesh Colorado in lawsuits against federal fracking rules, federal clean water rules and the EPA’s Clean Power plan. Continue reading

Breckenridge voters approve new lift ticket tax

Morning alpenglow paints the summit of Breckenridge Ski Area.

Starting next season, some skiers and snowboarders will be paying an extra 4.5 percent on their lift tickets (season passes excluded) to help pay for needed transportation and parking infrastructure. @bberwyn photo.

New revenue to fund transportation improvements

Staff Report

The turnout wasn’t exactly overwhelming, but those Breckenridge voters who did bother to cast a ballot Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of a ballot measure  authorizing a 4.5 percent lift ticket tax.

The preliminary tally shows 917 votes in favor of ballot measure 2A, with just 185 no votes. The new tax is aimed at funding long-term funding for parking and transit solutions in the jam-packed tourist town. Continue reading

Forests: Study says spruce beetle not a big factor in recent southwest Colorado wildfires


A major spruce beetle outbreak has been spreading across forests of southwest Colorado, but that hasn’t been a big factor in recent wildfires in the region, according to CU-Boulder research.

Climate, topography likely more significant, researchers say

Staff Report

Colorado researchers have added another chapter to the long-running debate over beetle-kill and wildfires, finding that spruce beetle infestations haven’t increased the severity of wildfires in southwestern Colorado.

Spruce bark beetles have affected roughly half a million acres of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir forests across the state in recent years, with infestations documented across an additional 87,000 acres in 2014. Continue reading

Study shows nuances in Coloradans beliefs about wildfires and climate change

Focusing on local threats, not climate change, may be the best way to spur wildfire mitigation actions

Wallow-fire-USFS-Ap-sit-NF-inferno-5812328293_6d2fe9b6cc_b_0 (1)

Colorado residents believe that climate change affects the risk of wildfires, but those beliefs don’t necessarily affect their actions when it comes to wildfire mitigation. Photo via U.S. Forest Service.


Wildfires are getting bigger in Colorado.

Staff Report

Whether or not people are convinced that human activities are changing the climate doesn’t play a big role in their decisions about trying to reduce wildfire risks around their property, Colorado-based researchers wrote in a new paper that focused on the Colorado Front Range.

The researchers tried to take a close look at social factors that might motivate people to try and lessen wildfire threats. They found that a “belief” in human-caused climate change is not as significant as previously thought. Continue reading

Colorado: Not much love for new fracking rules


Finding common ground on proposed new oil and gas drilling rules won’t be easy based on initial comments. @bberwyn photo.

Industry, community groups both criticize meek draft regulations

Staff Report

New rules proposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are drawing fire from both the industry, which says the proposed regulations go far beyond what was recommended by an advisory panel that met last summer, and by some citizen groups, who claim rules leave the door wide-open to large-scale fracking operations near homes and schools.

The proposed rules specifically address recommendations made by the Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force related to the size of oil and gas extraction and processing facilities, requirements for advance disclosure of drilling plans and  the ability of local communities to help determine locations through a consultation process. The proposed rules are posted here. Continue reading


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