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New study challenges the conventional wisdom on severity of Front Range wildfires in Colorado

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A new study examines the history of wildfires along the Colorado Front Range.

Historic wildfires in the pre-suppression era burned just as intensely, scientists say

Staff Report

FRISCO — New research challenges the conventional wisdom that wildfires along the Colorado Front Range have become more severe.

A detailed assessment of fire history across more 1 million acres of forest suggests that only 16 percent of the area showed a shift from historically low-severity fires to severe, potential crown fires that can jump from treetop to treetop.

Even in the days before fire suppression, fires along the Front Range were often destructive, killing many mature trees in the burn areas, the study concluded. Continue reading

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Colorado: South Platte River tour set for this week

From the Rockies to the Plains …

The South Platte River. Colorado.

The South Platte River. Colorado.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Colorado may be our state’s namesake river, but the the South Platte is the workhorse, draining most of the Front Range, coursing through urban Denver and spreading out into great trickling braids to sustain prairie farms and ranches.

This week, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s last river tour of the year (July 10-12) will explore the South Platte, staring in Berthoud and at Cameron Pass and ranging as far as Nebraska and Wyoming.

From the earliest days, the river of the plains has figured prominently in Colorado history, as a pathway for the early French and Spanish explorers who were part of that era’s geopolitical maneuverings in the New World. The Native Americans of the region, of course had a long-standing association with the river and their own name for it — the Niinéniiniicíihéhe’. Continue reading

Colorado: Storm rolling in …

Forecaster still uncertain for high country snow totals

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A big Pacific trough is working its way inland, bringing snow to much of Colorado.

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A winter storm rolling out of the Four Corners toward Colorado is billed as having the potential to drop several feet of snow in parts of the state, but even late Friday night, forecast models were still not in complete agreement as to where the heaviest snow will fall Saturday through Sunday.

National Weather Service forecasters have issues winter storm watches and warnings, as well as blizzard watches for almost the entire state, but the Denver-based forecasters warned that, “Summit County could very well get sheltered again in this Front Range storm.” The forecasters also said the upper low might eject farther south than previously anticipated, which would push the heavier snow amounts farther south. Click here for the latest updates and links to all the warnings. Continue reading

Colorado: High Park Fire uncontained at 37,000 acres

Front Range wildfire behaving unexpectedly; firefighters hope to gain a toehold on containment Monday

High Park Fire footprint and perimeter as of early Monday morning. MAP COURTESY MARK NEWBY. Click on the image to visit the map on the web. The map is based on data from an overflight at 12:20 a.m. and data released by the USFS 6:52 a.m. The fire has burned another seven hours since then, so it has likely grown even larger.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After two days of watching the High Park fire spread and even double back on itself, firefighters late Sunday night said that with lower winds forecast Monday, they hope to at least gain a toehold against the fire which grew to 37,000 acres in just two days, according to the latest InciWeb update released Monday morning.

Get the latest updates on the fire at Larimer County emergency services website and at the InciWeb.org national fire information website. Real-time updates are also streaming on Twitter from @LarimerSheriff and at the #HighParkFire hashtag. Continue reading

Climate: South Platte flows could drop by 40 percent

New Colorado study examines potential impacts to water supplies

New climate report highlights dire impacts to Colorado's river flows.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —A new study by the Water Research Foundation projects potential climate change impacts to Front Range water supplies for the next few decades, showing that the total amount of water in several key river basins could decline significantly if temperatures continue to rise.

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization  highlighted the report in its March newsletter, saying the starkest conclusion of the study is how much river flows could diminish in a hot and dry future — a future that is looking more and more likely as emissions of heat-trapping gases increase. Continue reading

Report focuses on value of water to headwaters counties

Nonconsumptive recreational and environmental values must be factored into the economic equation

Recreational and environmental uses of water in headwaters counties must be accounted for in the development of statewide water policies, according to a report from the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Equitable water policies in Colorado must weigh the economic benefits of nonconsumptive water uses in headwaters counties, a recent report from the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments concludes, pointing out that transmountain diversions are 100 percent consumptive from the standpoint of the basins of origin.

The report, released in January at a Denver water conference, takes a fresh look at the critical importance to the economy of water in West Slope rivers, and why Colorado leaders may want to take careful thought before making future transmountain diversion policy decisions. Visit the NWCCOG website for the full 95-page report. Continue reading

Colorado: Front Range forest thinning may be misguided

A classic ponderosa pine forest landscape. PHOTO COURTESY USFS.

New study shows historic fire conditions much more variable than previously thought

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Many recent forest management efforts along Colorado’s Front Range ponderosa pine belt have been aimed at creating widely spaced stands of trees, based on the conventional wisdom that those forests were historically shaped by low-intensity ground fires.

But severe, high-intensity fires were probably much more common in the region than previously believed, said Mark Williams, one of the University of Wyoming researchers who found that at least 80 percent of the ponderosa pine forests in the region were subject to moderate-to-intense fires that destroyed stands and created a patchwork structure, leaving some dense stands and some open forests.

The study, conducted by William Baker and Mark Williams, used extensive land survey data as well as physical evidence of fires, and covered about 4.1 million acres on the Mogollon Plateau and Black Mesa in northern Arizona, in the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon, and in the Colorado Front Range. Continue reading

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