National Park Service to update oil and gas drilling rules


A fracking boom near national parks has already degraded air quality and fragmented wildlife habitat around some of the country’s most cherished public lands. @bberwyn photo.

Agency acknowledges potential for adverse impacts to park values

Staff Report

The recent surge in fossil fuel exploitation on public lands near national parks has raised serious concerns about air quality, wildlife and scenic values — to the point that the National Parks Conservation Association outlined threats in a report a few years ago.

Now, the National Park Service wants to tackle some of the concerns by updating drilling regulations.  The proposal would revise current rules that are 36 years old, predating the modern fracking area. The agency hopes the update will give the fossil fuel industry more certainty, improve the agency’s ability to protect park resources and the values for which the parks were set aside, and protect visitors from potentially adverse impacts associated with fossil fuel development. Continue reading

Study shows national park visitors value dark skies

Light pollution is a growing challenge


Night skies over Arches National Park. Photo courtesy NPS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service says that recent surveys show that efforts to protect nighttime skyscapes from light pollution are valued by park visitors.

A new study, published Sept. 4 in Park Science, suggests that almost 90 percent of visitors to Maine’s Acadia National Park interviewed for the study agreed or strongly agreed with the statements, “Viewing the night sky is important to me” and “The National Park Service should work to protect the ability of visitors to see the night sky.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Postcards from France

A week in Provence …

FRISCO —I’m not quite ready to move to Provence for year, but one could definitely tarry here for a few weeks or months, at least. There’s plenty to explore, and not just vineyards. Just off the shore of Hyéres is a group of car-free islands that have been set aside as a national park. It’s rare to find much undeveloped land along the Côte d’Azur, so taking the ferry across to Porquerolles was a chance to see what the area looked like before it was completely over-developed for tourism. More info later in a travel story, but for now, a few postcards.

Climate: National Parks face huge sea level threats


Can the National Park Service protect coastal assets from rising sea levels? Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force.

Study says $40 billion in park assets at risk

Staff Report

FRISCO — Researchers are only a third of the way through their efforts to catalog how rising sea level threatens national parks, but they’ve already documented risks to more than $40 billion worth of park assets.

“Many coastal parks already deal with threats from sea level rise and from storms that damage roads, bridges, docks, water systems and parking lots,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a prepared statement. “This infrastructure is essential to day-to-day park operations, but the historical and cultural resources such as lighthouses, fortifications and archaeological sites that visitors come to see are also at risk of damage or loss.” Continue reading

National Parks to stop selling Confederate flag souvenirs and trinkets


Souvenirs featuring the Confederate battle flag won’t be sold in national park stores.

‘Any stand-alone depictions of Confederate flags have no place in park stores …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — The national debate over the Confederate battle flag has spurred the National Park Service to remove souvenirs and other items featuring the flag from national park bookstores and gift shops. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park eyes adaptive management plan for winter motorized use

Snowmobile use in National Parks is strictly managed, like this tour in Yellowstone, but in some national forests, more management is needed to protect the environment and make sure there are opportunities for quiet, non-motorized use.

Snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park will once again be studied by the National Park Service.

Public comments wanted

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service wants to keep a close eye on how motorized winter activities are affecting Yellowstone National Park, and the agency want to be in a position to respond if they need to.

To that end, the park is taking public comments on a draft Winter Use Adaptive Management Plan aimed at continually improve the management of winter use in the park using the best available science and public input. The draft plan will be available for public review and comment at until August 21, 2015. Continue reading

More fracking woes in southwest Colorado

BLM rejects request for orderly master leasing plan


The BLM’s new management plan for the Tres Rios area is spurring criticism.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Residents and elected officials in southwest Colorado say a new management plan for a vast swath of public lands in the region favors oil and gas companies over community interests.

According to critics, the BLM Tres Rios land resource management plan would allow drilling near the edge of Mesa Verde National Park, adding to near-critical air pollution woes and disturbing important wildlife areas.

Most importantly, the federal agency ignored requests by local governments to ensure the orderly and safe development of fossil fuels. Continue reading


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