U.S. Forest Service moves toward permitting more coal mining in Colorado’s North Fork Valley

Roadless rule exemption at issue in federal permitting process


A U.S. Forest Service proposal to permit more coal mining in Colorado would unleash huge amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution.

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service wants to update a public lands rule that would re-open the door for new coal mining on about 20,000 acres in south-central Colorado’s North Fork Valley, near Paonia. The agency this week posted a federal register notice seeking comment on a proposal to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule.

The proposal comes about a year after a federal court set aside the exemption after finding that the Forest Service failed to disclose greenhouse gas emissions associated with potential mine operations and the combustion of coal from the area. Find the federal register notice and information on commenting here. Continue reading

Forest Service OKs Breck summer expansion plan


Summer is about to get busier on the slopes of the Tenmile Range.

Summer attractions expected to draw 150,000 new tourists

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service is giving Vail Resorts a green light for more development on the slopes of the Tenmile Range, at Breckenridge Ski Area.

In a final decision released this week, White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams approved a significant expansion of recreation infrastructure, including zip lines and canopy tours, as well as more off-highway vehicle tours and an expansion of the Peak 7 hut. Continue reading

Forest Service stalls on Wolf Creek land trade order


A federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to release more documents related to a controversial land trade and development proposal at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Controversial swap would enable massive development project at Wolf Creek Pass

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service continues to delay the release of records related to a controversial land trade in southwestern Colorado.

Last week, a federal court granted the agency’s request for a 30-day extension to turn over letters, memos and other documents from a long-running review of the Wolf Creek land trade — a swap that would enable a massive resort development in the middle of an important wildlife area.

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel ruled that the Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act and ordered the agency to release the documents on the controversial land trade by Oct. 30. Conservation groups critical of the trade say the paper trail may show that the decision-making process was tainted by political influence. Continue reading

Native Americans back national monument designation for 1.7 million acres of public lands around the Grand Canyon

A legal road on the Kaibab National Forest leads to this lookout spot on the rim of the Grand Canyon near the Saddle Mountain wilderness area. PHOTO COURTESY LEIGH WADDEN.

Grand Canyon view from the Saddle Mountain Wilderness. Summit Voice file photo.

Monument designation sought to prevent mining, preserve Native American heritage

Staff Report

Native Americans in northern Arizona are supporting far-reaching protection for culturally and environmentally important lands around the Grand Canyon.

The Navajo Nation and the Hopi, Havasupai, and Hualapai tribes have joined forces to back a bill by Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) that would protect more than a million acres near the canyon. Continue reading

Epic Death Valley floods leave wake of destruction


Flash floods in October scoured roads and bridges from the landscape in Death Valley National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Autumn tourism affected by road damage, but many attractions still open

Staff Report

A series of El Niño-fueled storms in October ravaged parts of Death Valley with floods and mudslides, leading to serious road damage and impacting other park resources, including Devils Hole, a spring that’s home to endangered fish.

According to the National Park Service, flash floods heavily damaged historic structures at Scottys Castle. In a press release, the park service floods pushed over a wall and buried some buildings with about five feet of mud.

The park often sees weather extremes, including flash flooding, but geologists said October’s events were near the edge of the historic envelope. Continue reading

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

Grassroots support leads to proposal for new marine sanctuaries

Shipwreck areas in Wisconsin and Maryland eyed for protection


NOAA is seeking comments on its proposal to designate two areas in Wisconsin (left) and Maryland (right) as national marine sanctuaries. (Credit: NOAA).

Staff Report

Two historic shipwreck sites could be designated as National Marine Sanctuaries under a proposal outlined by President Barack Obama at an international ocean conference today.

In a press release, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it’s the first time since 2000 that the agency has identified new sites for that designation. NOAA is taking public comment on the proposal. Continue reading


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