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Energy: Does fracking threaten national parks?

Conservation report outlines steps to mitigate potential impacts

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Oil and gas drilling near national parks could affect air and water quality in pristine, protected areas. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After years of watching federal agencies haphazardly issuing leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands near national parks, conservation advocates say it’s time for a more systematic approach.

With the Bureau of Land Management currently updating national guidelines, the National Parks Conservation Association has outlined potential threats to parks in a new report.

“Our national parks are America’s most treasured places, and we need to treat them carefully as we develop the nation’s natural gas and oil,” said NPCA Vice President for the Center for Park Research Jim Nations. “Our research revealed that some national parks are already in peril. Unless we take quick action, air, water, and wildlife will experience permanent harm in other national parks as well.” Continue reading

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National Park Service under pressure to allow pro bike race

Sidewalk chalk art at the Breckenridge stage of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge. Bob Berwyn photo.

Former superintendent of Colorado National Monument says new planning process is means to a pre-determined end

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — National park conservation advocates and retired park employees say they’ll carefully watch an upcoming planning process at Colorado National Monument that may have been spurred by pressure from elected officials and special interests.

Park service officials said last week they would launch a public process to evaluate a variety of special uses, including weddings, commercially guided climbing and, not least, professional bike racing.

In a press release, regional NPS director John Wessels said the plan “will bring greater transparency to our decision-making process, and will draw upon the community’s knowledge and connections to the monument to inform our decisions on future activities.”

Unsuccessful efforts by the Grand Junction business community to route a section of the USA Pro Challenge cycling race through the monument may have triggered the planning effort. Based on national regulations and policy, the National Park Service twice rejected a proposal to hold a section of the race in the monument. Continue reading

No drilling (for now) near iconic Utah national parks

Federal appeals court rejects bid to reinstate Bush-era leases

Park Avenue, in Arches National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A set of hotly contested lease sales near several iconic Utah landscapes were rejected this week by the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. The lease sales were approved in the waning days of the Bush administration as a give-away to the energy industry and subsequently withdrawn by incoming Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The federal appeals court said the energy industry missed a 90-day deadline to challenge Sec. Salazar’s decision under the Mineral Leasing Act.

The leases were on public lands near Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dinosaur National Monument and were opposed by conservation groups from the start. Continue reading

Park Service: No bike race in Colorado National Monument

Grand Junction group seeks to host USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage

The National Park Service won’t allow the USA Pro Cycling Challenge to hold part of a stage in Colorado National Monument.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The USA Pro Cycling Challenge won’t be going through Colorado National Monument in 2013, as the National Park Service once again denied a request by a local organizing committee to use the monument for part of a stage in popular race.

According to a post on the Grand Junction local organizing committee’s Facebook page, the group submitted a third request to use four miles of road in the monument — from the Glade Park turnoff to the east entrance — as part of a Grand Junction-based stage.

Local organizers persisted in their efforts to route at least part of stage through the monument for several reasons — the monument has a legacy of cycling from the Coors Classic days, said John Hopkins, co-chair of the local organizing committee.

“We tried very hard to meet their concerns,” Hopkins said, explaining that latest application focused on a short stretch of road through the monument considered to be a public right-of-way.

Organizers believed the route could be used without harming park resources or the visitor experience, but, in the end, couldn’t convince the park service.

Hopkins said the group will now prepare a bid that showcases some of the other highlights of the Grand Valley area, perhaps included a route that would take cyclists over the Grand Mesa, a spectacular flat-top mountain that towers over the Colorado River Valley.

Some of the area’s famed orchards and vineyards could also serve as a backdrop to a stage that would showcase sprinters in a time trial, he said. Continue reading

Report: National parks near a tipping point

National Parks Conservation Association says federal budget cuts threaten services, maintenance and economies of gateway communities

Colorado National Monument. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site is one of the places at risk if federal budgets are cut across the board. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — National Parks in the U.S. could take a huge hit in the coming years if the Congressional Super Committee fails and mandatory across-the-board cuts are made to the federal budget.

Failure to agree on a new budget would result in across-the-board reductions of about 9 percent, amounting to a $231 million cut to the National Park Service — devastating to many national parks, visitors, and the communities and businesses that depend on them, according to Craig Obey,  senior vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association.

The parks advocacy group has released a new report that outlines the potential impacts, finding that additional budget cuts could jeopardize visitor services at national parks across the country.

“Of course we need to fix our deficit problems. But cutting national parks budgets will have about as much impact on the deficit as a bucket full of rocks would have on filling the Grand Canyon, and it would cost jobs, hurt communities, and mar our national heritage,” said Obey. Continue reading

Nov. 5 Senate field hearing set for Mesa Verde

Sen. Mark Udall chairs parks subcommittee meeting with focus on historic and cultural preservation in national parks

Mesa Verde National Park. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with managing some of America’s greatest natural wonders, the National Park Service is also charged with protecting the nation’s most important historic sites, including archaeological treasure troves like Mesa Verde, Colorado’s only World Heritage site.

But protection of those historic and cultural resources has often taken a back seat to natural resource management, according to the most recent state of the parks report report from the National Parks Conservation Association. Overall, the condition of cultural resources was rated as generally “fair to poor,” with no sites rated as excellent. Continue reading

Travel: Proposed new North Woods National Park in Maine would be bigger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined

The proposed North Woods National Park in Maine would be bigger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined. Map courtesy http://www.mainewoods.org. Click on the map for more information.

Top federal officials listen to local concerns; some recreation interests and property rights advocates  see the plan as a federal land grab

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s been a while since the U.S. created a new national park, but there’s a move to do just that in the remote North Woods of Maine, where conservation advocates are backing an ambitious plan to protect an area bigger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and national park service director John Jarvis recently met with community leaders in Maine to hear what local residents think about a new park that would encompass some of the wildest territory in the northeastern U.S.

The big stretch of Maine north woods was owned by lumber companies for many years, but as the paper products industry declined, the land was parceled off. Now the concern is that much of the area could be subject to real estate speculation, including residential development.

“Maine’s North Woods supply a wide range of vital resources from which we all benefit, from its timber and forest products to its wildlife, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities,” Salazar said. “It is important to hear directly from local communities, tribes, and the residents of Maine on the possibility of designating a portion of the North Woods as a national park. We must consider not only the economic benefits that might come, but also how traditional uses of the land and Maine’s unique legacy of access to private property would be preserved.” Continue reading

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