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Environment: Tuesday roundup

Independent journalism in western Colorado

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Big issues at the climate talks in Lima, Peru.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — If you primarily read this Summit Voice feed, which has been climate focused recently, you may have missed a few other recent stories I’ve done for the Colorado Independent. The past couple of weeks I’ve  covered issues in western Colorado, including fossil fuel development, public lands protection and even the ski industry from time to time, including this week’s story about a Colorado Supreme Court case. Continue reading

White River National Forest updates oil and gas plan

74,000 acres in roadless areas still open to fossil fuel development with a no surface occupation stipulation

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Most oil and gas development on the White River National Forest is limited to the far western zones in areas where drilling is already common.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The White River National Forest wants to open up nearly 200,000 acres for oil and gas drilling leases, including 74,000 acres in designated roadless areas where there would be restrictions on surface activities.

The long-awaited update to the forest’s oil and gas leasing map were released this week by the agency in a final environmental impact study and a draft record of decision, subject to a 60-day objection period. The final EIS is online here.

WRNF supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said he chose a “conservation-minded” option that prioritizes recreational and natural resources values over energy development across most of the forest. Most of the lands open for leasing follow the pattern of recent energy development in areas with high potential for fossil fuel development.

“Over one million acres of the White River National Forest are not geologically conducive for natural gas production, and another 800,000 acres are legally withdrawn. In addition, I have decided to close 213,000 acres of the White River National Forest to leasing in order to protect and maintain the natural character of these areas and protect important wildlife habitat,” Fitzwilliams said. Continue reading

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Public lands: Industry groups once again challenge 20-year uranium mining ban around the Grand Canyon

Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon? Some Senate Republicans think it's a good idea.

Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon? Say it ain’t so!

Industry groups once again appeal 20-year moratorium in court

Staff Report

FRISCO— Mining companies just won’t give up their dream of exploiting public lands around the Grand Canyon to profit from uranium mining.

Last week, the the National Mining Association and the American Exploration & Mining Association went back to court to try and overturn a 20-year moratorium on uranium mining that covers about 1 million acres in the region. Continue reading

Forest Service seeks comment on plan to build new road to a private inholding on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area

Access law obligates Forest Service to consider road access

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Will this be the ultimate ski-in, ski-out cabin at Breckenridge?

Staff Report

FRISCO — The owners of a 10-acre private parcel surrounded by national forest lands on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area may soon have the ultimate ski-in, ski-out cabin.

The U.S. Forest Service this week started taking public comment on a plan to provide access to the private inholding, located near the top of the Zendo Chair and base of the Kensho chair. Continue reading

Colorado: Senators Udall and Bennet ask President Obama to use Antiquities Act to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument

Gridlock in Congress prompts request for designation

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There’s a new push to create a national monument along the Arkansas River.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing gridlock in Congress, Colorado’s U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have asked President Obama to consider designating Browns Canyon, in Chaffee County, as a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

The request comes as Congress has all but ignored a huge backlog of public lands bills primarily based on ideological opposition to land protection measures by House Republican committee chairs.

According to Udall and Bennet’s Nov. 25 letter to President Obama, community leaders in the Browns Canyon area suggested the Antiquities Act path, recognizing the significant economic benefits of the designation for regional tourism-based businesses. Continue reading

Colorado: More political diddling over modest land bill

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Will Colorado get a new wilderness area this year?

Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act passed by Senate committee

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In what may become a Christmas miracle, Congress is poised to actually pass a land protection measure before the end of the session. Lawmakers this week said they reached a compromise on a bill to protect the Hermosa Creek watershed near Durango.

As written, the legislation would create a 70,000-acre special management area and a 37,000-acre Wilderness area in the San Juan National Forest. The compromise includes opening a huge section of alpine backcountry around Molas Divide to snowmobiling. Continue reading

Will federal agencies start taking climate seriously in analyzing proposals for public lands?

Coal, in this day and age? Really?

Coal, in this day and age? Really?

Lack of appeal in Colorado coal mining case may signal change of direction

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal resource managers may be inclined to take a closer look at the climate impacts of projects on national forests and BLM lands, after the Obama administration decided not to challenge a recent federal district court ruling on Colorado coal mining leases. Continue reading

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