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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

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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

Travel: 9 free days at U.S. National Parks in 2014!

Your lands: 84 million acres, 17,000 miles of trails

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Badlands National Park, South Dakota. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — This year, you’ll have nine chances for a fee-free visit to one of America’s 401 national parks, starting as soon as Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 20, 2014). The park service recently announced the 2014 schedule of free days, offering the fee-free visits as a way to encourage visitation.

The 2014 entrance fee-free days are:

Dwindling Denali wolves raise tourism concerns

wolf population across the 6 million acre park and preserve declined from 143 in fall 2007 to just 55 in spring 2013

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS Photo / Nathan Kostegian.

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS/Nathan Kostegian.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — An arbitrary decision by the Alaska Board of Game to allow wolf hunting and trapping near Denali National Park has cut the regional wolf population by nearly two-thirds and significantly reduced opportunities for park visitors to see wolves in the wild — one of the main reasons people go to Denali in the first place.

This year, fewer than 5 percent of park visitors were able to see wolves, down from about 45 percent back in 2000, according to National Park Service statistics obtained by a federal government watchdog group.

“This precipitous decline in wildlife viewing success appears to be unprecedented in the history of the national park system,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and a Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility board member. Continue reading

House GOP tries to heist federal water rights

Radical anti-environmental GOP leaders seek to privatize water

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Tenmile Creek flows through the White River National Forest near Frisco, Colorado, helping to sustain aquatic ecosystems. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Anti-environmental House Republicans are at it again, this time trying to pull of one of the greatest heists of all time by passing a law that would ban agencies like the National Park Service and the Forest Service from exerting any control over water flowing off federal lands.

House Resolution 3189, the so-called Water Rights Protection Act, wouldn’t actually protect any water; instead, it would open the door for more private development of water for fracking and urban development by prohibiting “the conditioning of any permit, lease or any other use agreement on the transfer, relinquishment, or other impairment of any water right to the United States by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture.” Continue reading

Colorado wary of greater sage-grouse listing

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Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

State officials want to balance fossil fuel development with wildlife conservation

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite the fact fossil fuel development is devastating wildlife habitat in northwest Colorado, state officials are pressing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list.

In a press release, Gov. John Hickenlooper‘s office described  oil and gas drilling as “vibrant economic activities,” and touted voluntary conservation activities shaped by local stakeholders as an alternative to a federal conservation plan.

“Given the unique landscapes and natural resources in Colorado, a Colorado-based solution is more practical that one handed down by the federal government,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “We hope the Bureau of Land Management will look at the public-private partnerships that have been so successful in Colorado as a model on how to get things done.” Continue reading

BLM to lease solar energy parcels in Colorado

Large-scale solar could add to the state’s renewable energy mix

Solar energy development zones in western U.S.

Solar energy zones around the southwestern U.S. would yield thousands of megawatts of electricity if fully developed. Click on the map to visit a BLM website with links to detailed maps of the specific areas.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After years of planning, the Bureau of Land Management is holding the first competitive auction for development of solar energy on public lands in Colorado.

Under Ken Salazar‘s leadership, the U.S. Department of Interior established a regulatory framework for solar development with a programmatic study that resulted in the designation of solar energy zones.

The Oct. 23 auction will award preference rights to submit a right-of-way application and a plan of development for commercial solar energy projects on three parcels of BLM-administered land, totaling 3,705 acres, in Conejos and Saguache counties in South Central Colorado.  Continue reading

Public lands: Forest Service eyes new rules for summer activities at ski resorts

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The U.S. Forest Service is taking comments on new rules governing various uses on public lands under permit to the ski industry.

Agency may authorize fees for uphill skiing, snowshoe travel at resorts on national forests

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Can you harmonize with the natural environment while speeding down a mountain zip line?

It may depend on exactly how fast you’re going, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which is rolling out a new set of rules to govern the permitting of summer recreational installations at ski areas operating on national forest lands.

In one of the biggest changes that would affect other private businesses near resorts, the agency would back away from a long-standing policy that precluded authorization for facilities that could be provided on nearby non-Forest Service lands. The proposed rules are posted at  http://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses. Continue reading

Colorado: Conservation groups challenge Forest Service over motorized routes on the Pike and San Isabel NF

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Motorized use on the Pike and San Isabel National Forest is at issue in a lawsuit in federal court.

Lawsuit alleges agency didn’t analyze the impact of new motorized routes

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation groups say the Pike and San Isabel National Forest erred in sanctioning hundreds of miles of motorized routes in a contentious 2009 plan that highlighted all the ongoing user conflicts on public lands.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, the groups claim the Forest Service failed to consider the potential harm to forest resources that could result from motor vehicle use on some routes, many of them created illegally over the course of decades of inadequate off-road vehicle management and enforcement on the forests.

“The Forest Service is rightly required to ‘look before they leap,’” said Melanie Kay of Earthjustice, attorney for the groups. “We’re not asking the Forest Service to ban motor vehicle use on the forests or to deny anyone reasonable access or recreational opportunities. Rather, we’re protecting the interests of forest visitors and the forest itself by ensuring that the agency makes well-informed decisions and does so in accordance with laws and regulations that have been on the books for decades.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: BLM releases draft version of greater sage-grouse conservation plan for northwestern Colorado

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

 

FRISCO — These days, the vast sagebrush ocean of the Intermountain West is under siege by drilling rigs, sprawling exurban development and, in some cases, poor grazing practices on public lands.

Altogether, those pressures have degraded habitat across big swaths of the landscape. The damage is reflected by the sharp decline in greater sage-grouse populations. The birds have disappeared from half of their former range and are a candidate for the endangered species list, likely to be designated as threatened or endangered.

The listing could come as soon as 2015 — unless federal land managers and local governments can agree on a conservation plan with enough safeguards to satisfy the biologists who will consider the listing.

The Bureau of Land Management, which administers much of the territory with key sage-grouse habitat, is working toward that goal in the west-wide National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Effort, and last week released a draft environmental study for northwestern Colorado for a 90-day comment period. Continue reading

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