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.

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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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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

Massive rockslide closes parts of Dinosaur Nat’l Monument

100-foot chunk of rock breaks off canyon wall

The large lighter-colored area indicates the extent of the rock slide above Jones Hole Creek as seen from the fish hatchery

The large lighter-colored area indicates the extent of the rock slide above Jones Hole Creek as seen from the fish hatchery in Dinosaur National Monument. Photo via NPS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A rockslide has closed portions of Dinosaur National Monument, According to the National Park Service, the slide has resulted in the closure of NPS lands from the boundary of the monument and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery to Ely Creek.

The first rock slide was reported June 18, when a large slab of rock broke free from a cliff face just a short distance inside the monument boundary, less than .25 miles from the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery. One fisherman reported having to run from a boulder that landed in the stream not too far from his location. After receiving reports, park rangers checked the scene and did not see any further activity. Continue reading

Colorado: Trail Ridge Road open for the season

Park staff dig out Alpine Visitor Center, 11,796 feet on May 23, 2013.

Park staff dig out Alpine Visitor Center, 11,796 feet on May 23, 2013. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park.

High-elevation visitor center and store to open next week

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A series of late-season storms didn’t prevent national park crews from opening Trail Ridge Road right on time this year, although Rocky Mountain National Park rangers say there could be nighttime closures because heavy melting on the road during the day and freezing temperatures at night.

The Alpine Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Store are expected to open sometime next week, according to a release from the park. Trail Ridge Road historically opens on Memorial Day weekend. Last year the road opened early on May 14 after record warmth in March. Continue reading

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

Travel: National Parks visitation surges in 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park is fifth-most visited

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.

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.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even though Hurricane Sandy forced the closure of some popular national parks in the Northeast late in the year, overall visitation to national parks surged to 282 million in 2012. National Park Service officials said it was the sixth-highest total ever, even though the agency estimated 2 million fewer visitors as a result of park closures caused by Hurricane Sandy. Continue reading

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