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Colorado: Sen. Bennet calls for climate change action

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Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Senator from Colorado says massive switch in energy policy needed to address climate impacts to Colorado

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —U.S.  Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, is calling on state residents to support a far-reaching renewable energy plan as a way to tackle global warming.

According to Bennet, Colorado’s economy is already feeling the effects of extreme weather, including shorter ski seasons, the constant threat of wildfire, and multi-year droughts that threaten Colorado’s $40 billion agriculture economy.

Bennet says the nation must take action to address a changing climate.

“One big step we can take is to create an energy plan that is relevant to our needs and interests in the in the 21st century and not stuck deep in the 1900s. It means investing in new energy technologies — and the jobs that come with it — that will actually allow us the luxury of not importing oil from the Persian Gulf anymore,” Bennet said in an email aimed at getting people to sign a petition in support of a forward-looking energy plan. Continue reading

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Could drones help battle wildfires?

Test sites proposed to learn how drones could improve wildfire monitoring, mitigation, and containment

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Images taken from space can provide a lot of information about wildfires, but low-level flights by unmanned aircraft could help make firefighting safer and more efficient, some experts believe. This image of the West Fork Fire Complex in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado was taken June 26 from the International Space Station. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information about the image.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A pair of U.S. Senators wants to get a leg up on wildfires by spurring the use of unmanned surveillance aircraft to make firefighting efforts more efficient.

“Extreme wildfires have become an all too common occurrence in Colorado, leaving families without homes and hundreds of thousands of charred acreage in their paths,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). “We need to employ every tool available to help firefighters in their battles. This bipartisan amendment will help us develop UAS technology and teach us more about how they can strengthen our fights against wildfires more quickly and safely.”

Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) this week introduced an amendment to create two additional test sites for unmanned aerial systems, with a focus on how they could be used for firefighting. Continue reading

Colorado makes bid for federal drone test site

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes. USGS photo.

Federal biologists use a drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes. USGS photo.

Political leaders pitch Colorado in a letter to the FAA

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado could be in the mix as the Federal Aviation Administration prepares to select six sites around the country to test drone technology, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems, as they are formally known.

Federal and state wildlife biologists are already testing drones to monitor birds in Colorado. NASA is also using drones to study tropospheric climate drivers, as well as hurricanes.

Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, Gov. John Hickenlooper and five of Colorado’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently sent a letter to the Federal Aviation FAA, urging the agency to choose Colorado. The bipartisan letter notes Colorado’s “unique mix of qualifications” for one of the test sites, including its thriving aerospace industry presence and the state’s world-class institutions of higher education. Continue reading

Colorado: Hermosa Creek conservation bill gets a bipartisan introduction in Congress

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The Hermosa Creek drainage near Durango is geting some bipartisan love in Congress.

Local stakeholder consensus may provide momentum for managment plan that includes modest amount of new wilderness

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are reaching across party lines to try and protect more than 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek watershed north of Durango.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Scott Tipton(R-CO) are introducing companion bills that would establish management for the Hermosa Creek Watershed based on recommendations from the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup. The panel includes local water officials, conservationists, sportsmen, mountain bikers, off-road-vehicle users, outfitters, property owners, grazing permit holders and other interested citizens.

“We are lucky in Colorado to be able to enjoy many of the country’s most beautiful landscapes in our backyards. The Hermosa Creek Watershed represents some of the best Colorado has to offer,” Bennet said. “This bill will protect this land for our outdoor recreation economy and for future generations of Coloradans and Americans to enjoy. It is the result of a local effort that took into account the varied interests of the community, and that cooperation helped us put together a strong bill with the community’s input.” Continue reading

Colorado: Sen. Bennet introduces measure to resolve wrangling over oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide

This map shows the overlap of roadless areas and oil and gas leases in Western Colorado's Thompson Divide area.

This map shows the overlap of roadless areas and oil and gas leases in Western Colorado’s Thompson Divide area.

Withdrawal would protect some areas while honoring existing leases and create a path for buying back leases

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) says there’s overwhelming local support for his bill to resolve management of the 221,000-acre Thompson Divide, where conservation groups have long sought protection from potential oil and gas development.

According to Bennet, his bill would protects the land and  local economies tied to it from future energy development, while also acknowledging and respecting the rights of current leaseholders.

“This bill to manage the pristine Thompson Divide area reflects the voices of stakeholders and Coloradans in the surrounding communities who live, work, and recreate in the area and rely on it for their livelihoods,” Bennet said in a statement. Continue reading

Watershed restoration funding back on track for Colorado

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EWP funding will help restore areas burned in the High Park Fire. Photo courtesy USFS.

Federal dollars to help areas affected by High Park, Waldo Canyon fires

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Persistence by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet paid off this week, as the U.S. Senate passed legislation that includes $65.5 million to help communities like El Paso County and Larimer County repair watersheds damaged in last summer’s wildfires.

Udall said it was a major victory for Colorado, with  Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program funds also included in the Continuing Resolution that passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Continue reading

Energy: Congress wants to boost hydropower production

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Turbine shafts at the Hoover Dam. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Bipartisan measure has backing of river conservation group

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With huge potential for increased hydropower generation, a bipartisan U.S. Senate bill and a companion measure in the house could help reduce some the red tape currently required to bring new hydropower sources online.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), would remove licensing barriers for smaller hydropower development and would require a study on a streamlined permitting process at existing dams and pumped storage products.

“In Colorado and the rest of the West, water is an extremely important resource for our families and the industries that drive our economy.” Bennet said. “This bill will accelerate development of hydropower resources as a part of a clean and diverse energy portfolio.” Continue reading

Feds extend comment period on Gunnison sage-grouse

Will political meddling outweigh conservation science?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse in Colorado and Utah.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse in Colorado and Utah.

Gunnison sage-grouse. Photo courtesy BLM.

Gunnison sage-grouse. Photo courtesy BLM.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With only about 4,000 to 5,000 Gunnison sage-grouse left in a few population pockets in Utah and Colorado, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in January to list the birds as an endangered species. At the same time, the federal agency proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for the birds.

The announcement elicited a critical response from state wildlife officials and local stakeholders, who say they’ve developed locally based conservation plans that will help protect the birds.

Since then, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and other lawmakers have urged the USFWS to extend the public comment period on the listing and critical habitat proposals to give affected communities more time to weigh in on the federal plans. Continue reading

Sen. Bennet calls for series of climate change hearings

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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Global warming represents threats to agriculture, as well as economic opportunities

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Climate change is threatening pillars of the Colorado economy, including the ski industry and agriculture, according to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who this week encouraged the chairs of all the Senate committees he sits on to address the issue by holding hearings during the current session of Congress.

Bennet serves on the Senate Finance and Agriculture committees and the and HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families.

“Between Superstorm Sandy, last summer’s wildfires and a persistent drought, extreme weather events fueled by our climate constitute substantial challenges for families across the country,” Bennet wrote in a letter to Chairwoman Kay Hagan, chair of the HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families. Continue reading

Sens. Udall and Bennet bash house for cutting Colorado aid

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Protecting post-fire watersheds a key goal for Colorado’s U.S. senators. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Funds for watershed restoration and protection cut from disaster relief bill

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The refusal by the U.S. House to fund disaster relief for Colorado communities hit by wildfires raises an equity issue, according to Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who said Americans from different regions must help each other when it comes to bouncing back from natural disasters.

“I am exceptionally disappointed that the House stripped out wildfire relief from this disaster assistance package,” Udall said. “But the House’s lack of action won’t stop us. I plan to continue to find any means available to secure help for Colorado. The Colorado wildfires occurred more than six months ago, well before the Hurricane Sandy emergencies, and should not have to continue to wait to be addressed. I plan to continue to remind Washington that we are all in this together.”

An amendment he and Sen. Michael Bennet introduced in the Senate would have restored funds for  communities in El Paso, Larimer, Teller and Weld counties to repair their drinking water infrastructure damaged during the 2012 wildfires. Continue reading

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