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White River National Forest updates oil and gas plan

74,000 acres in roadless areas still open to fossil fuel development with a no surface occupation stipulation

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Most oil and gas development on the White River National Forest is limited to the far western zones in areas where drilling is already common.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The White River National Forest wants to open up nearly 200,000 acres for oil and gas drilling leases, including 74,000 acres in designated roadless areas where there would be restrictions on surface activities.

The long-awaited update to the forest’s oil and gas leasing map were released this week by the agency in a final environmental impact study and a draft record of decision, subject to a 60-day objection period. The final EIS is online here.

WRNF supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said he chose a “conservation-minded” option that prioritizes recreational and natural resources values over energy development across most of the forest. Most of the lands open for leasing follow the pattern of recent energy development in areas with high potential for fossil fuel development.

“Over one million acres of the White River National Forest are not geologically conducive for natural gas production, and another 800,000 acres are legally withdrawn. In addition, I have decided to close 213,000 acres of the White River National Forest to leasing in order to protect and maintain the natural character of these areas and protect important wildlife habitat,” Fitzwilliams said. Continue reading

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Morning Photo: December light

Subtle …

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The low sun angle highlights every grain of snow covering this scruffy meadow in Frisco.

FRISCO — Exceptional light rules in mid-December. The sun has dropped to nearly its lowest point in its path across the sky, so that, even a couple of hours after sunrise, it lingers, barely above the southeastern horizon. Often, layers of thin low- and mid-level clouds diffuse the light even more, creating a wintry glow in the snowy landscapes of Colorado. Check out our daily photo feed on Instagram and visit our Fine Art America online gallery for more landscape shots from Colorado. Continue reading

Colorado fracking task force set to meet in Rifle

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Roads and fracking pads spiderweb across the wild landscapes of western Colorado and eastern Utah, as seem from a commercial airliner. bberwyn photo.

Audio from meeting to stream live on the web

Staff Report

FRISCO — A 21-member Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force meets again in Rifle this week, with the agenda including a discussion of health impacts to people in gas patch communities.

Questions about health impacts surfaced again last week as a major new review of scientific studies spurred leading experts to say there are reasons for concern. Many of the toxic chemicals used in the fossil fuel industry are known to disrupt basic body chemistry. Continue reading

Morning photo: Frozen!

Winter glory

Frozen fountain.

Frozen fountain.

FRISCO — OK, so it hasn’t exactly been hardcore winter around here the past few days. After that big mid-November snow, things warmed up pretty dramatically, which means I had to reach back into the archives to compile this set of winter images, a reminder of different each year can be when it comes to weather. But I wanted to highlight a few shots that speak to the season in all its frozen glory. Check out our daily photo feed on Instagram and visit our Fine Art America online gallery for more landscape shots from Colorado. Continue reading

Morning photo: Divine daybreak

November scenes …

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Light frost on the grass and an exceptional morning glow in early November.

FRISCO — I’ve often said November is the best month for sunrise photos in Summit County and this year was no exception. The atmospheric conditions — with frequent formation of wave clouds over the Rockies — seem to combine with a good sun angle to create almost unbelievably brilliant scenes, especially with still unfrozen waters of Dillon Reservoir as a mirror, and best of all, you don’t have to get up all that early to catch it, with the best colors peaking between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Check out our daily photo feed on Instagram and visit our Fine Art America online gallery for more landscape shots from Colorado. Continue reading

Lawsuit targets protection for rare Colorado lizard

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A Colorado checkered whiptail in southeastern Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Natural Heritage Program.

Wildlife advocates say USFWS has missed deadline for listing decision

Staff Report

FRISCO — An unusual Colorado lizard that lives in  grasslands and juniper woodlands has been targeted for protection by conservation advocates.

The Center for Biological Diversity last week filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to decide whether the Colorado checkered whiptail warrants consideration for Endangered Species Act protection.

The Center first petitioned for this lizard — along with 52 other amphibians and reptiles — in July 2012 because habitat loss and other factors are threatening them with extinction.   Continue reading

Morning photo: Sunday set

Mountain scenes …

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Just a brief moment of alpenglow this morning.

FRISCO — Morning alpenglow is my favorite. That’s all! Continue reading

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