Environment: Six more national parks ban sale of disposable water bottles

New policies encourage reduction of solid waste

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Colorado National Monument has banned the sale of disposable plastic water bottles.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Another half-dozen national parks ended the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in 2013, bringing the total number of parks with bans to more than 20.

For most parks, disposable plastic water bottles represent one of the biggest sources of trash, but the move toward ending sales of plastic bottles in national parks has been hampered by resistance from Coca Cola, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The watchdog group has tracked the halting progress of the agency’s move to limit the environmentally damaging bottles. By some estimates, more than 16 million barrels of oil are needed annually to produce the plastic for all the disposable bottles sold in the U.S. in one year. That production process also requires twice the amount of water that’s actually contained within the bottles.

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Bay Area national parks to host BioBlitz 2014

Citizen science in the spotlight

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Fungi growing in redwood litter at Muir Woods National Monument. bberwyn photo.

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Muir Woods. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — California’s Golden Gate National Parks will host BioBlitz 2014 (March 28-29), bringing together 300 scientists and naturalists from around the country, more than 2,000 students, including 1,400 students from the San Francisco Unified School District, school groups from surrounding counties and thousands of Bay Area community members.

Bioblitz participants will comb the parks, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Inventory activities include counting seals, documenting insects, spotting birds, examining aquatic invertebrates and using technology to better understand the varied ecosystems of these unique national parks in an urban area.

“The Golden Gate National Parks are well-loved by the surrounding Bay Area as well as visitors around the world,” said Golden Gate National Recreation Area General Superintendent Frank Dean. “BioBlitz will allow people to explore the parks in a new way, better understand the biodiversity that exists and help document and protect these amazing natural resources,” Dean said. Continue reading

The most anti-environmental budget ever?

GOP aims to slash spending for public lands, environmental programs

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Rhetorical GOP attacks on public lands and the environment culminated this week in a proposed budget that would slash funding for public lands management and environmental programs.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Given the vapid rhetoric from House GOP leaders the last few years, a full frontal assault on public lands was inevitable. It came this week, in the form of proposed massive budget cuts for public lands and environmental programs, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Overall, the interior funding bill proposed by the House Appropriations Committee this week cuts $5.5 billion — 19 percent — from Fiscal Year 2013 levels, covering the Department of the Interior, the EPA, the Forest Service, and various independent and related agencies. Continue reading

Threats, attacks on federal workers increase in 2012

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A National Park ranger was killed in the line of duty in 2012, the first such incident since 2002.

Watchdog group tracks federal data to identify year-to-year trends

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Attacks and threats against federal workers on public lands increased in 2012, with violence against U.S. Park Police officers reaching a record level, according to figures compiled by federal agencies and analyzed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

According to the figures, reported incidents rose more than 40 percent in wildlife refuges and in areas patrolled by the U.S. Park Police and by more than 12 percent in national parks.

The year began with the shooting death of Mount Rainier National Park law enforcement ranger Margaret Anderson on January 1. Anderson was only was the ninth ranger killed in the line of duty since the National Park Service was founded in 1916.  A park ranger was last killed in 2002, at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, while chasing drug traffickers. Continue reading

National Park Service plans ‘mussel blitz’ at Lake Powell

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A USGS map shows the spread of invasive mussels in the U.S.

Divers to scour main marinas in search of invasive species

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After finding 14 adult quagga mussels attached to moored vessels and dock structures at the Wahweap Marina in Lake Powell, the National Park Service is planning a four -day “mussel blitz” to try and remove any more of the invasive aquatic pests.

Starting June 10, 25 to 30 divers will be in the water at Wahweap and Antelope Point Marinas to assess the extent of quagga mussels. Divers and staff from the National Park Service (NPS), Aramark, Antelope Point Marinas, and other local, state, and federal agencies will inspect moored boats, docks, cables, and the buoy field in the marina areas during the intensive 4-day effort. The location, size, and quantity of the mussels removed will be recorded to help scientists determine the origin and scope of the problem. Continue reading

1 dead, 5 rescued with heat-related illness at Lake Mead

National Park Service warns of excessive heat

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — National Park Service rangers are warning about excessive heat at Lake Mead National Recreation Area after rescuing five people in the White Rock Canyon area, all showing symptoms of heat-related illness.

Another member of the group, Clawson Bowman Jr., a 69-year-old Las Vegas resident, died in the same area, but National Park Service did not specify if the death was heat-related, saying only that the Mohave County Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death.

The June 8 search and rescue operation involved a party of two adult males and four Boy Scouts. The search started about 1 p.m. Saturday after the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Interagency Communication Center received a report from the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office stating four Boy Scouts were lost near the Arizona Hot Springs. Lake Mead NRA Rangers and Fire were dispatched to the area to conduct a search. Continue reading

Invasive quagga mussels found in Lake Powell for first time

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Quagga mussels growing on a flip-flop. Photo courtesy NPS.

Biologists hopeful that the alien invaders haven’t started breeding yet

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Non-native quagga mussels have gummed up waterworks and fouled ecosystems across the country and now, for the first time, they’ve been confirmed in Lake Powell, the great southwestern reservoir that is a key part overall water storage in the Colorado River Basin.

The National Park Service recently identified 14 adult quagga mussels attached to moored vessels and dock structures at the Wahweap Marina in Lake Powell. None of the adult mussels were close enough together to mate for successful reproduction. All of the mussels were physically removed from the lake. 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

North Carolina dune buggy advocates try a congressional end run to restore motorized access at Cape Hatteras

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This image from the NASA Earth Observatory program shows where Hurricane Isabel carved a new channel across Hatteras Island in Sept. 2003.

Measure may get OK from anti-environmental House committee, but is unlikely to pass the Senate

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fans of motorized beach access in North Carolina are hoping that Congress will overturn a public National Park Service planning process with a bill that would re-open parts of Cape Hatteras National Seashore to dune buggies and other vehicles.

The House Natural Resources Committe, led by anti-environmental Republican extremists, this week will vote on HR 819, a measure that would roll back some restrictions on motorized access at the popular North Carolina beach.

As written, the bill would void a court-approved agreement that protects nesting and baby sea turtles and birds, as well as pedestrians at the seashore. Continue reading

Travel: Popular Grand Canyon trailhead gets a makeover

National Park Service touts expanded parking, better visitor service

The Bright Angel trailhead at the Grand Canyon has had a big makeover, with more parking and an expanded view area

The Bright Angel trailhead at the Grand Canyon has had a big makeover, with more parking and an expanded seating area.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — One of the most storied trails in the country has seen a partial makeover, and the National Park Service will celebrate the new look of Grand Canyon National Park’s Bright Angel Trail with a May 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The renovation encompasses a 3.5 acre area at and surrounding the Bright Angel Trailhead. The work focused on creating an accessible and comfortable area for visitors that complements existing historic buildings including the Bright Angel Lodge and Rim Cabins designed by Grand Canyon architect Mary E. J. Colter.

With little work on the trailhead in the past 100 years, the National Park Service said visitors were having a hard time finding the trailhead, and there was no convenient or comfortable place for people to sit to either enjoy the view or prepare for hikes.  The renovation will greatly improve conditions at and around the trailhead, providing a much better experience for park visitors. Continue reading

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