Colorado fracking industry files formal objection to White River National Forest oil and gas plan

Drillers say restrictions will hinder exploitation of new shale plays to the detriment of local communities

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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.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Even though the vast majority of public lands in the West are already open for fossil fuel exploitation, oil and gas companies want more.

In their latest push for more drilling, three fracking industry lobbying groups are challenging the White River National Forest’s oil and gas drilling plan, claiming that the agency’s analysis was marred by politics, as elected officials pushed to have the Thompson Divide area excluded from energy development.

In their formal objection to the plan, the groups ( Western Energy Alliance, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Public Lands Advocacy) the groups said that, as written, the document could prevent the development of speculative new plays in Mancos and Niobrara shale formations in western Colorado. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Rare fox spotted in Yosemite National Park

Just 50 Sierra Nevada red foxes remain in the wild

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the rarest mammals in the American West may be making a comeback in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite National Park biologists this week confirmed a sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the northern reaches of the park — the first the speices has been seen in Yosemite for nearly 100 years.

“We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering endangered species protection for the species since late 2011. There are only two known populations, one near Mt. Lassen and the other near Sonora Pass, just north of Yosemite, with a total population estimated at about 50 individuals. Continue reading

Study shows challenges of restoring fracking sites

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A patchwork of drill pads connected by a spiderweb of roads in northeastern Utah.

‘Wildlife habitat goals cannot be realized by merely establishing grasses …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Restoring areas after drilling and fracking requires more than just spreading out some dirt and sprinkling a few grass seeds around, according to two Colorado scientists who took a close look at 10 drilling sites in Rio Blanco County.

After sampling  two undisturbed reference sites and eight reclaimed or abandoned natural gas well pads, they found that none of the oil and gas well pads included in the study had returned to a  pre-drilling, condition — even those that had had 20 to 50 years to recover. Continue reading

Obama pushes for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge protection

Conservation plan proposes 12 million acres of new wilderness

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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska’s North Slope.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A far-reaching conservation plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would designate 12 million acres of new wilderness, including critical wildlife habitat along the coastal plains that are home to vast herds of caribou.

On the White House blog, John Podesta and Mike Boots directly addressed the potential threat and disastrous consequences of a major oil spill in the region.

President Obama said he will make an official recommendation to Congress to designate core areas of the refuge – including its Coastal Plain – as wilderness, the highest level of protection available to public lands. Watch the President discuss the announcement here.

If Congress chooses to act, it would be the largest ever wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act more than 50 years ago — but that’s highly unlikely with GOP control of Congress. In fact, Alaska’s pro-development lawmakers have already over-reacted by characterizing the announcement as a war on Alaska’s future, according to the Alaska Dispatch News, which has the best coverage of the story. Continue reading

Public Lands: Rocky Mountain National Park and Dinosaur National Monument celebrate centennials this year

Parks invite community to join the birthday party; Dinosaur NM seeks community partners to help plan events

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Trail Ridge Road overlook, RMNP. bberwyn photo.

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Elk in RMNP. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Not one, but two famed Colorado public land icons are celebrating 100-year birthdays in 2015. Dinosaur National Monument turns 100 years old on October 4, 2015, and visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park will have a chance to share birthday cake with park rangers on Jan. 26.

Both parks are inviting the public to join in the celebrations with a series of special events. Continue reading

Colorado: Feds eye fee increase for Vail Pass winter use

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Snowmobiling at Vail Pass.

Season pass would increase to $100

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service wants to increase winter day use recreation fees at Vail Pass by a whopping 30 percent, from $6 to $9, while the price of a season pass would rise from $40 to $100.

The current fees have been in place for more than 10 years and the agency says it’s facing increased management costs in the heavily used recreation area. Continue reading

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joins call for Browns Canyon monument designation

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Map of proposed Browns Canyon National Monument.

Letter to President Obama cites strong local support

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few weeks after Colorado residents resoundingly sounded off in favor of protection the Arkansas River’s Browns Canyon at a public meeting in Salida, Senator Michael Bennet and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper asked President Barack Obama to designate the canyon as a national monument. Continue reading

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