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Wildlife officials say Colorado is ‘open for hunting’

A bull elk in Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE/MICHAEL SERAPHIN.

A bull elk in Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Michael Seraphin.

Federal government shutdown won’t have big impact on state’s big game season

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The partial federal government shutdown has put a crimp in some hunting plans, but state officials are emphasizing that the state’s big season won’t see a big impact from the political theater in Washington, D.C.

More than 23 million acres of federal land in the state are open for fall hunting, and early snowfall could help make it one of the better seasons in recent years, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife experts.

“It’s unfortunate that hunters are receiving mixed messages from the federal agencies,” said Steve Yamashita, acting director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “While all of the National Forests in Colorado are open, the shutdown has confused sportsmen across the country and we’re trying to make sure people get the right information. Colorado is open this hunting season.”  Continue reading

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Travel: Visit a wildlife refuge on your next road trip

National Wildlife Refuge System celebrates 11th birthday this year

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Visit a National Wildlife Refuge this summer!

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — National Parks may get most the glory, but the country’s vast National Wildlife Refuge system has also earned a special place in the hearts of anyone who cherishes the thought of giving native animals a place to roam.

This month, the NWR system is marking its 110th birthday, and despite impending budget cuts resulting from the budget sequester, several sites will be holding special events to celebrate.

It’s not surprising that the first formal wildlife refuge was set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt, who created the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, along Florida’s central Atlantic coast, with an executive order in March 1903. Continue reading

Environment: Judge orders U.S. Fish and Wildlife to find and eradicate genetically engineered plants in wildlife refuges

Battle over genetically engineered crops continues

Use of genetically engineered crops is widespread, but a judge blocks their use in wildlife refuges in the southeastern U.S.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — National Wildlife Refuge managers in the Southeast will have a tough job ahead, as a federal judge has ordered the agency not only to halt the planting of genetically engineered crops, but to eradicate those that have already been planted, as well as any stray plants that might escape.

The ruling is in response to a lawsuit by environmental and watchdog groups aimed at halting the use of genetically engineered crops in wildlife refuges. After finding in October that prior approval of GE crop planting violated environmental laws, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg directed the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to halt planting of GE crops under any of its cooperative-farming agreements throughout the ten-state Southeast Region. Continue reading

Watchdog and public health groups challenge the use of genetically engineered crops in National Wildlife Refuges

Environmental groups say the planting of genetically engineered crops puts the biological integrity of national wildlife refuges at risk. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

Lawsuit claims USFWS violated environmental laws by approving use of GE crops

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Environmental and watchdog groups have joined forces in a legal battle to end the cultivation of genetically engineered crops on fifty-four national wildlife refuges across the Midwest. The lawsuit — filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Center for Food Safety, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Beyond Pesticides is the latest in a series of successful actions by public interest groups to stop planting of GE crops on wildlife refuges.

The groups are claiming that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service violated federal environmental laws by entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in eight Midwestern states, without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act  and in violation of the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act and FWS’s own policy. Continue reading

Urban wildlife refuge planned near Albuquerque, New Mexico

A planned new urban wildlife refuge near Albuquerque, New Mexico will provide habitat for species like the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

Feds say new site will boost economy, help urban residents connect with nature

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Working closely with local partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the go-ahead to establish a new 570-acre wildlife refuge on the site of a former dairy farm just a few miles south of New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area

“With the support of Bernalillo County, the Trust for Public Land, New Mexico’s Congressional delegation, and many partners, New Mexico will gain its first urban national wildlife refuge,”  Said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “Once complete, this refuge, which is within a half hour drive of nearly half of New Mexico’s population, will be a place for people to connect with and learn about the natural world and will provide valuable habitat for wildlife, including the endangered the southwestern willow flycatcher.”

Joined by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Congressman Martin Heinrich, and Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, Salazar said a refuge in this location would fulfill the goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to work with community partners to establish a 21st century conservation ethic and reconnect people, especially young people, to the natural world. Continue reading

More oversight needed for wildlife refuge drilling

Sandhill cranes at the Bitter Lak wildlife refuge in New Mexico.

Numerous spills prompt call for more stringent guidelines, including better training for staff

By Summit Voice

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service needs rules to protect National Wildlife Refuges from spills and contamination from oil and gas drilling, according to a rulemaking petition filed this week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington, D.C. group that watchdogs federal agencies.

According to PEER, thousands of wells now operate on refuges, particularly in the south and east where the subsurface rights are privately held, with little regulation. That number is likely to skyrocket as natural gas from underground shale formations is tapped.

PEER is pressing the Fish & Wildlife Service, which operates the refuge system, to adopt rules modeled on ones the National Park Service has had in effect for more than 30 years. The rules address spill prevention and response, bonds for reclamation, proper waste disposal and reducing surface impacts. Continue reading

Feds outline a new vision for wildlife refuge system

A roseate spoonbill at a national wildlife refuge in Florida.

Salazar wants to connect a new generation to the outdoors and more access to recreation

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar participated in the  Center for American Progress’ new Public Lands Project this week, speaking about the America’s Great Outdoors initiative and unveiling his new vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Salazar announced a draft vision plan to guide the growth and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The vision document – “Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation” — was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge Association and offers nearly 100 draft recommendations to protect and improve the world’s premier system of public lands and water set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants for the continuing benefit of the American people. Continue reading

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