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Study tracks global warming in national parks

Scientists track impacts to ecoystems as temperatures rise

Great Sand Dunes National Park may not be one of the most-visited, but it's definitely one of the most intriguing. Bob Berwyn photo.

How will global warming affect wildflowers in Great Sand Dunes National Park?

FRISCO — National Parks across the country are facing an era of change because of global warming, scientists concluded in a new study showing that many parks are already experiencing temperatures that are near the extreme high end of the scale, based on measurements going back to 1910.

The report by National Park Service scientists concludes  “that climate change is happening in America’s national parks, and in some cases in rapid and concerning ways,” and that “measurable plant and animal responses to recent climate change have already been documented.”

“This report shows that climate change continues to be the most far-reaching and consequential challenge ever faced by our national parks,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a statement  “Our national parks can serve as places where we can monitor and document ecosystem change without many of the stressors that are found on other public lands.” Continue reading

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National Park Service bans drones

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Big sky, no drones. Photo by @cotravgirl.

Agency to develop comprehensive long-term policy for new class of aircraft

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — If you’re visiting Yosemite, the Grand Canyon or other iconic American national parks this summer, you may have to contend with the normal problems like crowded parking lots, but at least you won’t have to dodge low-flying unmanned aircraft.

The National Park Service has issued a blanket ban on drones, as they’re popularly called, directing individual parks to draft written statements explaining how the ban is consistent with existing regulations. The new directive came from National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis. Continue reading

Public lands: National parks crack down on drones

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Badlands National Park — not a place for drones.

Yosemite, Zion national parks issue reminders on aircraft regulations

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing impacts to wildlife and other concerns, the National Park Service has cracked down on the use drones in Yosemite and Zion national parks under existing rules that regulate aircraft in the parks.

According to a press release from Yosemite National Park, drone use has skyrocketed the past few years, as visitors use them to film rock climbers and to get other aerial footage. Along with concerns about impacts to nesting raptors, park service officials said drones can impact the natural soundscape, which the agency is required to protect. Continue reading

Recreation: Park Service eyes river access issues

Early morning kayaking near Frisco, Colorado.

Early morning kayaking near Frisco, Colorado.

New handbook to help guide management and development of launch sites

Staff Report

FRISCO — Hoping to stay ahead of the growing and diversifying demand for boating opportunities, the National Park Service is partnering with the River Management Society to help develop guidelines for new launch sites and access points.

Under the collaboration, the park service announced publication of Prepare to Launch as a resource to help river managers, planners, boaters and water trail leaders plan for and build access to waterways.

“‘Prepare to Launch!’ will help water resource managers provide safe and sustainable launches that strengthen connections to the nation’s waterways,” said National Park Service river programs manager Joan Harn. “By collaborating with the River Management Society and our state, local and national partners, we can expand everyone’s capacity to access and enjoy America’s rivers and waterways.” Continue reading

Stakeholders move cautiously toward redesignating Colorado National Monument as a national park

Proposal released for local review and comment

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Colorado National Monument. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a year of local input and discussions, Colorado lawmakers this week took the next step toward redesignating Colorado National Monument as Rim Rock Canyons National Park.

U.S. Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat, and Republican Congressman Scott Tipton unveiled a bipartisan proposal driven by community recommendations. According to joint press release from Udall and Tipton, the proposal reflects local residents and stakeholders’ concerns and interests about a possible redesignation.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Travel: Government shutdown blamed for big drop in national park visits

Government dysfunction hurts gateway towns near parks

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Visits to National Parks in the U.S. fell slightly in 2013, mainly due to the government shutdown in October, when the National Park Service turned away millions of visitors.

In total, 273.6 million total visits were recorded during the year at the 401 parks, down 9.1 million visits from 2012. The shutdown also resulted in an estimated loss of $414 million in visitor spending in gateway and local communities across the country when comparing October 2013 to a three-year average (October 2010-12). Continue reading

Travel: National Parks boost healthy, sustainable food

The cafeteria at Muir Woods National Monument in California showcases organic, locally produced foods.

The cafeteria at Muir Woods National Monument in California showcases organic, locally produced foods. bberwyn photo.

New guidelines also encourage shift to locally produced food

By Bob Berwyn

Hot dogs and hamburgers will remain on the menu at 250 national park snack bars and restaurants, but 23 million park visitors are also finding healthier options like fish tacos and yogurt parfaits.

The changes come under a new two-part set of rules finalized in April 2013 and  rolled out across the country this summer.

“Park visitors are going to  see really tasty choices that are healthy for them, with sustainable attributes, some regionality and a softer environmental footprint,” said Kurt Rausch, a National Park Service contracting specialist who helped develop the new guidelines for businesses offering food sales in parks. Continue reading

Travel: 9 free days at U.S. National Parks in 2014!

Your lands: 84 million acres, 17,000 miles of trails

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Badlands National Park, South Dakota. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — This year, you’ll have nine chances for a fee-free visit to one of America’s 401 national parks, starting as soon as Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 20, 2014). The park service recently announced the 2014 schedule of free days, offering the fee-free visits as a way to encourage visitation.

The 2014 entrance fee-free days are:

Unregulated ammonia emissions from agriculture seen as environmental threat in national parks

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A new study says trees in some national parks in the U.S. are already being damaged by deposition of ammonia and nitrogen compounds stemming from agriculture.

Depositions already exceeding critical thresholds in some parks

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — From the high country of the Pacific Northwest to the hardwood forests of New England, airborne deposition of ammonia and nitrogen are already taking a toll on national parks.

In Great Smoky Mountain National Park, for example, the amount of nitrogen being deposited per hectare already far exceeds the threshold that causes damage, according to a study led by Harvard University scientists.

Hardwood trees start to suffer when nitrogen deposition reaches approximately 3 to 8 kilograms per hectare, per year. According to the new study, the actual rate of deposition is about 13.6 kilograms per hectare, per year. In the forests of Mount Rainier National Park, it’s the lichens that suffer first as the critical limit is passed. Continue reading

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