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Outdoors: Public lands access advocates win another round in the battle over federal recreation fees

Summit County hiking Colorado

The legal battles over Forest Service recreation fees continue

District court judges nixes Southern California Adventure Pass

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The see-saw legal battles over public land recreation fees took another twist last week, as a judge in California decided that the U.S. Forest Service can’t continue selling its Adventure Pass for heavily visited recreation areas in Southern California national forests.

According to the judge, the pass violates federal law — specifically the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act — because it makes visitors pay to use public lands even if they’re not using any developed facilities.

“The Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking. If a visitor does nothing other than park, the fee is solely for parking and is, therefore, plainly prohibited by the REA,” the court ruled, referencing previous court decisions. Continue reading

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Colorado: Dinosaur National Monument marks National Park Week with special events and activities

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Dinosaur National Monument is best known for its trove of fossils, but also harbors a great collection of ancient Native American rock art. Photo courtesy NPS.

Stargazing, an Easter Egg hunt and movie screenings all part of the festivities

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dinosaur National Monument, in northwestern Colorado, will celebrate National Park Week with a slew of special activities, including an Easter Egg hunt of the younger set (April 20), a birthday party of sorts for the monument’s famed stegosaurus statue, as well as a twilight tour and stargazing.

“National Park Week is a great time to get out and celebrate your parks. At Dinosaur National Monument, we are excited to welcome visitors from all over the world,” said acting superintendent Mark Foust.”We would especially like to welcome local residents who may not have come out to the monument recently. We are proud to be a part of the local communities and would love to see as many people as possible re-connect with the monument and take advantage of the free admission days to get out and enjoy the quarry area and the canyon country.” Continue reading

Grand Canyon National Park eyes bison plan

Roaming buffalo create management challenges

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The buffalo are roaming in Grand Canyon National Park. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A herd of bison brought to northern Arizona in the early 1900s has moved from a state-run wildlife area into Grand Canyon National Park, and now park rangers want to develop a plan to manage the animals.

Initially, the bison were managed in the House Rock Wildlife Area for big game hunters, but in the late 1990s, the animals have pioneered their way to the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park.

Resource managers say  combination of public hunt pressure, drought and fire, and reduced forage quality in House Rock Valley during the 1990s may have contributed to the bison moving through Saddle Mountain Wilderness and onto the higher elevations of the Kaibab Plateau. Over the past several years, very few bison have returned to wildlife area. Most now spend a majority of their time inside the park. Continue reading

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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Public lands access advocates lose latest skirmish with Forest Service over recreation fees

Court says private concession companies don’t have to meet agency standards for recreation fees on public lands

Fee stations like this one at Pine Cove campground near Frisco, Colorado, could become even more common after a federal court exempted private companies from rules governing the application of recreation fees.

Fee stations like this one at Pine Cove campground near Frisco, Colorado, could become even more common after a federal court exempted private companies from rules governing the application of recreation fees.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — One of the legal efforts to try and check the recent proliferation of public land access fees was rebuffed by a federal court in Washington, D.C. last week. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that private companies running recreation facilities on federal lands don’t have to follow the same regulations as agency managed facilities.

In a worst-case scenario, the ruling could open the door to more widespread fees for trailhead parking and other types of access that have traditionally been free, said Kitty Benzar, president of the West Slope No-Fee Coalition, a group dedicated to eliminating fees charged for access and recreation on undeveloped public lands.

Continue reading

Study tracks feeding habits of black bears in Yosemite National Park

American black bears are notorious scavengers, and their habit of seeking out human food nearly always ends badly. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

American black bears are notorious scavengers, and their habit of seeking out human food nearly always ends badly. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

‘Dumpster diving’ back down to levels of 100 years ago

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Biologists say that recent measures to prevent bears in Yosemite National Park from eating human food are showing signs of success. The proportion of human foods in their diets decreased by about 63 percent after new strategies were implemented in 1999.

The new study, led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows how much human food has contributed to the diets of Yosemite bears over the past century. The scientists reached their finding after comparing chemical isotopes in hair and bone samples from today’s park bears with samples from museum specimens. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Plan for vastly expanded summer recreation at Breckenridge Ski Area deserve close scrutiny

Proposal includes zip lines, high alpine 4WD tours and summer operations of the Imperial Chair

Vail Resorts wants to ramp up summer recreation at Breckenridge Ski Area.

Vail Resorts wants to ramp up summer recreation at Breckenridge Ski Area.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Vail Resorts wants to significantly expand the scope of summer activities at Breckenridge Ski Resort on lands used under permit from the U.S. Forest Service. That means more chairlifts could soon be humming all year long at what is already one of the busiest ski mountains in the world.

The proposal includes zip lines, tree canopy tours and even four-wheel drive tours to remote sections of the Tenmile Range — along with plenty of new construction at the summit of Peak 8 and around the Peak 7 warming hut.

According to the proposal, the resort currently lacks “adventure or thrill-based experiences,” and “interpretive programs that offer an educational experience for users seeking to learn more about the environment.”

The summer improvements plan also includes restoration activities at the ski area that would be incorporated into the plan after the public has had a chance to offer initial comments during a formal scoping phase for the project, the first step in an in-depth Environmental Impact Study that will evaluate impacts. Continue reading

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