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Colorado: Marijuana task force starts meeting Dec. 17

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The federal response to Colorado’s marijuana-legalizing Amendment 64 is still unclear. Bob Berwyn photo.

Stakeholders will develop recommendations for regulating legalized marijuana consumption and cultivation

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A state task force charged with implementing Colorado’s Amendment 64, which legalizes personal consumption and cultivation of marijuana — will be working under a tight schedule, meeting weekly to develop recommendations that will be delivered to Gov. John Hickenlooper and the State Legislature no later than the end of February.

That will help set the stage for the next technical step in the process of regulating marijuana in a way similar to alcohol, with state agencies required to develop regulations for that process by July 1, according to Sean McAllister, a Breckenridge-based attorney and spokesman for Colorado NORML.

AP reporter Kristen Wyatt tweeting from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s press conference on marijuana legalization:

McAllister said the task force, representing an array of stakeholders ranging from local governments and health and safety officials to the state department of agriculture and medical marijuana providers, will meet weekly. Read the executive order establishing the task force here.

Read the executive order codifying Amendment 64 here. Continue reading

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Can state and feds find common ground on legal marijuana?

Is Colorado headed for a cannabis clash with the feds? Bob Berwyn photo.

Passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado sets up potential showdown

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —Even in the face of federal uncertainty, local officials say Colorado’s effective — if somewhat cumbersome — regulation of medical marijuana can serve as a guide for controlling the cultivation and retailing of marijuana for personal use, legalized by state voters in last week’s election.

Amendment 64 legalizes the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as soon as the election results are certified by Gov. John Hickenlooper, at the latest by Dec. 6. Possession and cultivation of up to six plants will also be legal. Continue reading

Colorado conservation groups urge feds to continue with careful review of massive new Colorado River diversions

A Colorado River headwaters stream just below the Denver Water diversion point.

Letter to Corps of Engineers and EPA calls for careful scrutiny

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado water and environmental advocates say they’re concerned that fast-tracking the federal environmental review for the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project could lead the responsible agencies to leave out important information and not fully address the impacts of new water diversions from the Colorado River.

“We’re worried that that we’re going to hit fast forward and miss some things,” said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator with the Colorado Environmental Coalition, explaining why several groups recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, reiterating their concerns about water temperatures and sediment loading in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

The fast-tracking was requested by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper back in June. In a June 5 letter to President Barack Obama, Hickenlooper touted a far-reaching water agreement as “removing” West Slope opposition to the Moffat project, and urged the Corps to release a final Environmental Impact Statement by the end of 2012, followed by a formal decision in early 2013. Continue reading

Gov. Hickenlooper to visit Frisco for forest health session

Two meetings next week to focus on forest and wildfire issues

Summit County residents are invited to a forest health powwow with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Grappling with the aftermath of Colorado’s most destructive wildfire season on record, state, federal and local officials will meet Oct. 12 for a half-day forest health summit at the Colorado History Center in Denver.

And in what could be a condensed preview of the Denver powwow, Gov. Hickenlooper will visit Summit County Oct. 10 to participate in a one-hour forest health and wildfire forum at the Summit County Community and Senior Center (10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.).

“Obviously Gov. Hickenlooper is the headliner … it’s an opportunity for Summit County to share with the Governor concerns, successes and opportunities on forest health,” said county commissioner Dan Gibbs, explaining that the session is partly aimed at sharing information about potential options to protect Colorado communities from a repeat of this past summer’s fires. Continue reading

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper says state drilling rules must stand, rejects call to withdraw lawsuit against Longmont

Longmont, Colorado.

Response to local elected officials emphasizes cooperative approach

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Gov. John Hickenlooper this week responded to concerns expressed by local government officials around the state about a state lawsuit challenging duly adopted local oil and gas drilling regulations.

A long list of elected lawmakers from around Colorado all signed on to a letter asking Hickenlooper to withdraw the suit and work cooperatively with local communitites.

In his response, Hickenlooper said the state’s lawsuit against Longmont was a “last resort,” after attempts to resolve concerns about locally adopted oil and gas drilling regulations failed. Read Gov. Hickenlooper’s letter here. Continue reading

Colorado: Local government officials from around the state blast Gov. Hickenlooper over Longmont drilling lawsuit

Longmont, Colorado.

State power play angers town and county lawmakers

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Local government officials from around the state — including Pitkin, Summit and Eagle counties, as well as towns like Basalt, Aspen and the entire Boulder City Council — voiced their opposition to a state lawsuit against the City of Longmont over locally enacted oil and gas drilling regulations.

In their letter, the diverse coalition of county commissioners, mayors, and city council members urged the Governor to rethink his approach and instead work with local governments to protect communities from the adverse impacts of growing oil and gas development. Continue reading

Draft report outlines greater sage-grouse conservation goals

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

States, BLM trying to stave off an endangered species listing

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new draft report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may help provide a road map for greater sage-grouse conservation by identifying high-risk populations of the birds, outlining specific measures needed to avoid or mitigate impacts and setting population conservation goals.

The draft report is part of a multi-state planning aimed at protecting sage grouse and enabling economic growth, including oil and gas development, across the interior West.

The USFWS is working toward a court-ordered deadline for making a decision whether list greater sage-grouse as threatened or endangered. As part of that process, the Bureau of Land Management is updating land management plans across huge swaths of the West. At the same time, western states are also involved in trying to develop sage grouse conservation plans, hoping to forestall an endangered species listing. Continue reading

Colorado: Agriculture to take big hit from drought

With extreme drought spreading across Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper is seeking to get ahead of the curve for federal disaster relief.

Gov. Hickenlooper seeks federal drought aid

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Several Colorado counties already meet federal criteria for drought relief, and more could be eligible soon, as farmers start to harvest wheat weeks ahead of schedule and some ranchers consider selling their cattle in the face of continued dry conditions.

In some parts of the state, ranchers won’t be able to grow enough hay to feed their cattle through the winter. Other areas were hit by an April frost after record warm temps in March spurred fruit trees to bloom.

As a result, Gov. John Hickenlooper last week requested drought assistance from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Continue reading

Hickenlooper and top federal officials tour High Park Fire

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lauds cooperation, pledges post-fire assistance and continued focus on forest restoration

High Park Fire map updated June 16 by Larimer County. Click on the image to download the large pdf version.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, top federal officials toured the High Park Fire zone Saturday, then emphasized the high level of cooperation between local volunteer fire departments, the Colorado Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service in working to contain the 55,000-acre wildfire, now one of the largest on record in Colorado.

Though more than 100 homes have been reported destroyed, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at an afternoon press conference that cooperation helped save thousands of other structures that were potentially in harm’s way.

Hickenlooper displayed photo of a tree he said was the source of the High Park Fire, struck by lightning a few days before the blaze grew out of control. He emphasized that the High Park Fire only burned across about 0.2 percent of public lands in the state, seeking to reassure visitors that the state’s forests are still open for recreation. Continue reading

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper makes formal disaster declaration for High Park Fire to free up emergency funds

The High Park Fire burn area as of Tuesday morning. MAP COURTESY MARK NEWBY/BLACK ICE GEOSPATIAL.

Declaration helps state tap into federal emergency funds

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper Tuesday declared the High Park Fire a state disaster in a move that allocates $20 million to the state’s Disaster Emergency Fund to pay for firefighting efforts. Click here to read the declaration.

Fire incident commander Bill Hahnenberg Tuesday morning estimated the total cost of the fire so far at about $1.6 million, mounting at the rate of as much as $400,000 per day.

Hickenlooper gave verbal approval hours after the fire started on Saturday for the disaster declaration and authorized the use of Colorado National Guard resources to help fight the fire. Tuesday’s declaration formalizes both actions and authorizes state emergency managers to apply for federal disaster funds. Continue reading

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