U.S. Forest Service approves massive expansion of summer recreational facilities at Breckenridge ski area

Zip lines, canopy tours and other attractions planned


A slice of the Tenmile Range that already feels the full brunt of industrial level recreation will see even more summer traffic after the U. S. Forest Service approved a huge expansion of new summer activities and facilities.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service is on track to approve a huge expansion of summer activities at Breckenridge Ski Area that will accommodate up to 150,000 additional visitors during the summer season.

The agency this week released a final environmental study for the new installations and programs, along with a draft decision letter from White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, who said he thinks the new facilities — including zip lines, canopy tours and challenge courses — will enhance public appreciation of national forest lands and the outdoors.

The proposal was controversial in Breckenridge, as some residents expressed concerns about drawing more visitors to the already crowded town. Other locals support the plan as a way of increasing tourism revenues and drumming up more business for local restaurants and shops. Continue reading

Outdoor industry not amused by latest GOP efforts to privatize public lands

Summit County hiking Colorado

Selling off public lands is a bad idea, according to the outdoor recreation industry.

Various land-transfer proposals seen as threat to recreation-dependent economies

Staff Report

FRISCO — Transferring federally managed public lands to state or local ownership would be a bad deal for outdoor recreation, and could lead to a loss of public access, business leaders warned during the outdoor industry’s recent trade show in Salt Lake City.

Outdoor industry leaders held a panel discussing during the trade shindig, focusing on what some perceive as a direct threat to the industry. The panel brought together political experts with conservationists, the sportsmen community, outdoor enthusiasts and business leaders from across the outdoor industry, all joining in opposition to state takeover of federal lands. Panelists and attendees also explored what the outdoor community can do to fight back. Continue reading

Activists launch campaign to end public lands coal mining

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

Report shows how to end public lands coal mining within 25 years

Staff Report

FRISCO — With control over over nearly 1 trillion tons of coal, the U.S. Department of Interior’s leasing and mining policies are a big factor in the rate of U.S. Greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, for example, more than 40 percent of all U.S. coal production came from public lands managed by the Interior Department.

Continuing to extract and burn the coal from public lands at current rate will make it nearly impossible to meet even modest climate targets, conservation advocates said this week, calling on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to acknowledge the risks of unchecked carbon emissions. Continue reading

Native Americans feel left out of planning process for Bear’s Ear region in southeastern Utah

Aug. 5 letter outlines tribal concerns


Native Americans are seeking meaningful protection for the culturally and environmentally important Bear’s Ear area in southeastern Utah.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A coalition of Native Americans say they’re “concerned at the lack of involvement of Tribes” in the current efforts to create a protective designation for the Bear’s Ear area in southeastern Utah’s San Juan County. The Native Americans say that, despite two years of dialogue with local stakeholders, San Juan County officials have failed to “reach out to, consult, and respond to feedback from Tribes within or outside of Utah.”

The concerns were expressed in an Aug. 5 letter from Diné Bikéyah — the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition — to Utah congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, and highlights the complex tangle of issues surrounding several different land-protection proposals for the area, with some Native American tribes seeking a federal designation, while the strong local-control movement in Utah explores different alternatives. Continue reading

Federal court shuts Tongass national forest roadless loophole


Coastal section of Tongass rainforest, via USFS.

Country’s largest rainforest to be protected from destructive logging

Staff Report

FRISCO — A federal court has overturned yet another lawless environmental decision made by the former Bush administration by striking down a huge roadless rule exemption for logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest — thew country’s largest.

Conservation groups hailed the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit as a major victory for efforts to preserve southeast Alaska’s environment. The national roadless rule, issued in 2001, protected about 60 million acres of public lands across the country, which the Bush administration promptly tried to undermine with all sorts of administrative exemptions. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park taking more input on winter use

Snowmobile use in National Parks is strictly managed, like this tour in Yellowstone, but in some national forests, more management is needed to protect the environment and make sure there are opportunities for quiet, non-motorized use.

Snowmobile use in National Parks is strictly managed, like this tour in Yellowstone, but in some national forests, more management is needed to protect the environment and make sure there are opportunities for quiet, non-motorized use.

Adaptive management plan requires ongoing monitoring and public involvement

Staff Report

FRISCO — National Park rangers in Yellowstone are still grappling with winter use rules in an effort to balance protection of resources with recreation. As part the efforts to finalize an ongoing adaptive management plan, Yellowstone will hold an Aug. 10 public meeting to take more input. The meeting will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Visitor Information Center in West Yellowstone, Montana.

The draft plan under discussion outlines a strategy to identify which affected resources should be most closely monitored and evaluated, how these resources should be monitored, and how the NPS will continually engage the public throughout the process. It was developed with input from working groups comprised of members of the public who contribute expertise across six impact topics. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates question federal sage grouse maps


Proposed federal conservation plans for greater sage-grouse have sliced and diced important habitat, conservation advocates say. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Report says fragmented habitat isn’t adequate for protection of species

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a detailed mapping analysis maps, wildlife conservation advocates say the federal government downsized important habitat for sage grouse.

The findings are outlined in a new report released by WildEarth Guardians. It compares protected areas to remaining key population hotspots. Almost 20 million acres designated as Priority Areas for Conservation disappeared from the Priority Habitat areas proposed in U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management sage grouse plans. Continue reading


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