Colorado River: New study offers painful details of Glen Canyon Dam impacts to downstream ecosystems

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Glen Canyon Dam has fundamentally altered downstream ecosystems in the Colorado River. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

‘A shadow of pre-dam conditions … ‘

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With all the focus on water quantity in the Colorado River Basin, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the installation of massive dams has fundamentally altered the river’s ecosystem.

But an in-depth three-year study done as part of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program offers a stark reminder of the changes wrought by drastically altering the river’s hydrological regime. Continue reading

British mining company sues U.S. government over Grand Canyon uranium mining moratorium

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The Grand Canyon. Courtesy NPS.

Vane Minerals seeks $132 million in damages

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The long-running battle over uranium mining near the Grand Canyon took another twist this week as a British company, VANE Minerals, sued the United States in Washington’s U.S. Court of Claims over the decision to protect 1 million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining.

VANE’s suit claims that uranium mining in Grand Canyon’s watershed “would have no adverse impacts.” The company is seeking up to $132 million from U.S. taxpayers. This is VANE’s second attempt to bring such a suit against the U.S. Continue reading

Grand Canyon uranium mining ban withstands another test

Federal judge once again rejects mining industry challenge to withdrawal

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Speculative uranium plays have raised the prospect of mining in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A moratorium on uranium mining in the greater Grand Canyon region withstood another test this week, as U.S. District Judge David Campbell denied a uranium industry motion to reconsider his previous ruling to let the temporary ban stand.

Mining interests could still go to a federal appeals court, but for now, the withdrawal enacted last year by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will stand.

“It’s another good day for the Grand Canyon, and for rivers, wildlife, and communities across the West,” said Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice, one the attorneys representing conservation groups and the Havasupai Tribe in the case.  “The court has now twice rejected the uranium industry’s attempt to cripple the Interior Department’s ability to temporarily protect lands from destructive mining.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: More condors die of lead poisoning

Conservation advocates want to phase out lead ammunition

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Majestic California condors are dying of lead poisoning on a regular basis.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With another three endangered California condors dead from lead poisoning in Arizona, conservation advocates are ramping up their call to phase out the use of lead ammunition.

Three condors may not sound like many, but that’s nearly 5 percent of the entire Arizona-Utah population, which numbers only about 80 birds. Seven of the birds have died since December, and three of the deaths are definitively linked with lead poisoning, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Since condors eat carrion, they ingest spent lead ammunition fragments as part of their diet. Lead poisoning is also suspected in the other four deaths. At least 38 condors have been killed by lead poisoning in Arizona and Utah. Lead poisoning recently killed the female of Utah’s only breeding pair of condors. Each year, up to half of the wild Grand Canyon condors must be given life-saving, emergency blood treatment for lead poisoning. Continue reading

Morning photo: West!

It’s not ALWAYS wild …

Looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge makes you realize you're about as far west as you can be in the U.S.

Looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge makes you realize you’re about as far west as you can be in the U.S.

FRISCO — When I saw this week’s #FriFotos theme I was pretty excited. After the West is where I first really spread my photography wings and learned to fly. In the early days, it was all I could do to hold the camera steady and straight while taking in those jaw-dropping vistas. Today, places like the Golden Gate Bridge still make my jaw drop, but thanks to digital photography and a slightly more sophisticated approach and technique, I do manage to capture a decent shot every now and then. Join in the Twitter chat fun by uploading your favorite west-themed pics and tagging with #FriFotos and posting them to Twitter. Continue reading

Court upholds ban on uranium mining near Grand Canyon

Conservation groups hail partial victory; more legal arguments on tap

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Th North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A federal judge this week partly rebuffed the mining industry’s attempt to pursue speculative uranium claims in the Grand Canyon region, saying that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acted within his authority when he ordered a temporary mining ban across more than 1 million acres.

The ban was adopted January 2012 to protect the Grand Canyon’s watersheds. The withdrawal prohibits new mining claims and development on old claims that lack “valid existing rights” to mine.

The National Mining Association, Nuclear Energy Institute, Northwest Mining Association and others last year filed four lawsuits challenging the withdrawal and the underlying federal authority to enact any withdrawals larger than 5,000 acres. The Havasupai tribe and conservation groups intervened to uphold both. Continue reading

The Grand Canyon gets a new birthday

New geologic technique suggests the Grand Canyon is 60 million years older than previously thought

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There’s no better place to contemplate Earth’s geological mysteries than the rim of the Grand Canyon, which may be quite a bit older than scientists had thought. Photo by Leigh Wadden.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — When you stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, it becomes a little easier to visualize the almost unimaginably powerful forces that give Earth the shape we know today — and also to get a sense of how long some of those processes have been at work.

New research led by CU-Boulder assistant professor Rebecca Flowers suggests that the Grand Canyon may be 60 million years older than previously thought. An analysis of mineral grains from the bottom of the western Grand Canyon indicates it was largely carved out by about 70 million years ago — a time when dinosaurs were around and may have even peeked over the rim.

The scientists used a dating method that exploits the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium atoms to helium atoms in a phosphate mineral known as apatite, said Flowers, a faculty member in CU-Boulder’s geological sciences department. The technique may help researchers unravel other geological mysteries. Continue reading

National Park Service challenged on religious displays

Should the National Park Service allow the sale of creationist propaganda in Grand Canyon bookstores?

Agency removes Buddhist Stupa from national monument in Arizona

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — National Park Service rangers this week removed a Buddhist Stupa from New Mexico’s Petroglyph National Monument after spending a couple of years trying to reconcile park rules with freedom of religious expression.

According to a press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Tibetan lama officially “deconsecrated” the stup, enabling it to be moved to private lands chosen by the local Buddhist community 15 miles away.

The Park Service inadvertently purchased the stupa — a ten-foot structure containing Buddhist relics —  in 1990 while acquiring lands for Petroglyph National Monument.  In 2010, the agency publicly assured local Buddhists that it would not move the religious structure. Continue reading

Morning photo: Wild west

Wide open spaces …

Sunset in Palisade, Colorado.

Photos by Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — I pulled together today’s photo essay as I was preparing for the popular Twitter #Expchat, a weekly forum for sharing travel information. I was struck by one thing: In all the thousands of tweets relating to travel in the West, not a single one mentioned shopping, nor did anyone say they wanted to visit Colorado and the West to look at gas drilling rigs. That’s not really a surprise. It’s the region’s wide open and protected spaces that are the real draw, and lawmakers, policy makers and other involved in developing management policies for these lands should take heed. Continue reading

Environment: Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups win the right to be part of lawsuit over uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park

The confluence of Havasu Creek with the Colorado River (river mile 157) is a popular place for boaters to stop and admire the striking blue-green water of Havasu Creek. The turquoise color is caused by water with a high mineral content. At the point where the blue creek meets the turbid colorado river there often appears a definite break. NPS photo by Erin Whittaker..

Prospector seeks to overturn ban on new uranium mines

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Native American Havasupai tribe, along with four conservation groups, will be party to a lawsuit regarding uranium mining in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Martone last week ruled that the Havasupai and four conservation will be able defend the U.S. Department of the Interior’s January 2012 decision to ban new uranium mining claims for 20 years across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.

The ban was challenged on behalf of the industry by uranium prospector Gregory Yount.

“Friday’s decision means we’ll have a seat in the courtroom to protect the Grand Canyon region’s life-giving waters and deer, elk, condors and other wildlife, as well as the tremendous cultural resources so important to the Havasupai tribe,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney at Earthjustice who is representing the coalition. Continue reading

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