Colorado: Dinosaur National Monument marks National Park Week with special events and activities

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Dinosaur National Monument is best known for its trove of fossils, but also harbors a great collection of ancient Native American rock art. Photo courtesy NPS.

Stargazing, an Easter Egg hunt and movie screenings all part of the festivities

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dinosaur National Monument, in northwestern Colorado, will celebrate National Park Week with a slew of special activities, including an Easter Egg hunt of the younger set (April 20), a birthday party of sorts for the monument’s famed stegosaurus statue, as well as a twilight tour and stargazing.

“National Park Week is a great time to get out and celebrate your parks. At Dinosaur National Monument, we are excited to welcome visitors from all over the world,” said acting superintendent Mark Foust.”We would especially like to welcome local residents who may not have come out to the monument recently. We are proud to be a part of the local communities and would love to see as many people as possible re-connect with the monument and take advantage of the free admission days to get out and enjoy the quarry area and the canyon country.” Continue reading

Colorado: Permits for river trips through Dinosaur National Monument going online

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Floating past Tiger Wall on the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Changes will enable boaters to apply for four launch dates

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Starting this year. boaters looking to garner a permit for the popular trip through Dinosaur National Monument will be able to apply online instead of via snail mail at Recreation.gov.

The application period runs Dec. 1, 2013 through Jan. 31, 2014 for high-season multi-day trips, and the online application system also opens up some new opportunities for boaters. Recreation.gov does require each applicant to register and create a profile with their unique email address and a password so that they can process payments.  Continue reading

Public lands: Advocacy group looks to boost Latino visitation and engagement at national parks

‘Four Stops’ tour features social media coverage

Pueblo del Arroyo, Chaco

Pueblo del Arroyo, Chaco Culture National Park in New Mexico, one of the stops on a tour aimed at boosting Hispanic engagement with national parks. Photo courtesy NPS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Some National Park Service officials have long expressed concern that the country’s changing demographics could affect park visitation. Currently, only 9 percent of the nation’s approximately 54 million Latinos visit the country’s national parks each year, according the American Latino Heritage Fund.

One of biggest barriers to entry is awareness, according to the Hispanic Access Foundation, which is sponsoring a “Four Stops” tour starting this week boost turnout and  protect parks from oil and gas development for future generations.

Foundation president Maite Arce and her family will complete the 950-mile tour with stops at Dinosaur National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Arches National Park and Chaco Culture National Park in New Mexico. You can follow the Arce family on Facebook and Twitter. Continue reading

Massive rockslide closes parts of Dinosaur Nat’l Monument

100-foot chunk of rock breaks off canyon wall

The large lighter-colored area indicates the extent of the rock slide above Jones Hole Creek as seen from the fish hatchery

The large lighter-colored area indicates the extent of the rock slide above Jones Hole Creek as seen from the fish hatchery in Dinosaur National Monument. Photo via NPS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A rockslide has closed portions of Dinosaur National Monument, According to the National Park Service, the slide has resulted in the closure of NPS lands from the boundary of the monument and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery to Ely Creek.

The first rock slide was reported June 18, when a large slab of rock broke free from a cliff face just a short distance inside the monument boundary, less than .25 miles from the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery. One fisherman reported having to run from a boulder that landed in the stream not too far from his location. After receiving reports, park rangers checked the scene and did not see any further activity. Continue reading

Firefighters make progress against Colorado wildfires

Red flag fire warnings persist in western Colorado

A NASA satellite image shows smoke from the Black Forest Fire.

A NASA satellite image shows smoke from the Black Forest Fire.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters in Colorado gained ground on a handful of wildfires Friday. By the end of the day, the deadly and destructive 15,000-acre Black Forest Fire was 30 percent contained. The Royal Gorge Fire was reported as 65 percent contained after burning across a footprint of about 3,200 acres of sagebrush and in pinon forests, including stands of trees killed by ips beetles.

New fires are also burning in western Colorado, where red flag fire warnings are in effect starting 12 p.m. Saturday (June 15). Gusty winds, warm temperatures and low humidity will create challenges for firefighters in the area, including at the lightning-sparked Ward Gulch Fire, where Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue deputy chief Jeff Berino is the incident commander.

At the Black Forest Fire, officials said rain helped firefighters establish some control of the flames — to the point that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was able to lift some evacuation orders. Continue reading

New group aims to protect national parks from drilling

Retired park rangers call on the BLM to fully adopt national leasing reforms

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Mesa Verde National Park could be at risk from oil and gas drilling. NPS photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — As oil and gas drilling rigs creep closer and closer to the borders of popular national parks around the country, a passel of retired park rangers has formed a new organization to try and protect cherished resources, including view sheds, air quality and wildlife habitat.

The idea is not to stop drilling. The ex-rangers acknowledge that energy development is needed. Rather, the group wants to hold other federal agencies — primarily the BLM — accountable to national guidance that requires smart, up-front planning when it comes to drilling around parks.

“We’re really concerned about the impacts if the drilling isn’t properly planned,” said Ellis Richard, a National Park Service veteran who ended his career as acting superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument, one of the park units potentially threatened by drilling. Continue reading

Colorado: BLM defers more drilling leases

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Roads and drill pads dot vast stretches of western Colorado.

Parcels near Dinosaur National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park won’t be auctioned next week

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Bureau of Land Management this week said it will defer another eight contested oil- and gas-drilling parcels from a Feb. 14 lease sale that will be the biggest so far in Colorado under the Obama administration, at 68,692 acres.

The deferrals announced Feb. 8 include 10,839 acres near Mesa Verde National Park, and about 2,600 acres near Dinosaur National Monument. With leasing and drilling widespread around western Colorado, conservation groups say they want to makse sure that land with high recreation and conservation values are protected from drilling impacts. Continue reading

Colorado: BLM defers touchy North Fork drilling leases

88,000 acres go on auction block next week

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A BLM map identifies areas up for oil and gas drilling leases, as well as areas where lease sales have been deferred.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Bureau of Land Management will offer up another 90,000 acres of land in Colorado for oil and gas drilling next week, but the agency did defer sales of about 20,000 acres of controversial proposed leases in the North Fork area.

The BLM also deferred the leasing of several parcels along the entrance road to Dinosaur National Monument because the agency doesn’t have a current inventory of the area’s wilderness characteristics, according to Ellyne Bannon, of the Checks and Balances Project.

Details of the upcoming lease sale are at this BLM website. Continue reading

Court rejects energy industry challenge to oil lease withdrawals on western public land

Contested oil and gas plays at issue in federal appeals court

A federal court this week ruled on the disposition of several disputed oil leases in the spectacular canyon country of the Southwest.

A federal court this week ruled on the disposition of several disputed oil leases in the spectacular canyon country of the Southwest. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A federal court this week confirmed that the  energy industry missed its legal window to contest a U.S. Department of Interior decision to withdraw 77 oil and gas leases in Utah. Some of the tracts were in the vicinity of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dinosaur National Monument — too close for comfort, according to conservation groups, who convinced the incoming Obama administration to withdraw the leases.

The leases had originally been auctioned off ain the waning days of the Bush administration, in a move widely characterized as a parting gift from Bush-era officials to the energy industry. Interior Secretary Ken scrapped the leases because BLM skimped on its environmental analysis and failed to adequately consult with the National Park Service.

In September 2012, the 10th Circuit ruled that the energy industry missed its 90-day window to challenge Sec. Salazar’s decision under the Mineral Leasing Act. Today the Court rejected industry’s request to have the full Court revisit that decision.  Continue reading

Colorado: Visits surge at Dinosaur National Monument

Spiffy new visitor center helps draw tourists

Dinosaur National Monument visitor center. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Dinosaur National Monument is well-known for its trove of fossils, but also features an impressive array of indigenous rock art. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new $13 million visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument has turned out to be a big attraction in northwest Colorado. The monument reported a huge surge in visitation in the first half 2012, up 47 percent from the previous year.

Recreational visits to the monument for the month of June alone totaled 44,847.

“While there is no way to predict what the monument’s visitation may be in the future, having the dinosaur quarry open to visitors again definitely increases the monument’s draw,” said monument superindentent Mary Risser. “Despite gas prices, the economy, above normal temperatures, and fires in many western states, people are still traveling and coming to the monument. Uintah County Travel and Tourism based in Vernal, Utah and Moffat County Tourism in Craig, Colorado have both been wonderful partners in helping spread the word about the monument and letting people know that the dinosaur quarry is open again.” Continue reading

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