Public lands: Watchdog groups slow proposed expansion of uranium mines in Utah

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A U.S. Geological Survey map shows concentrations of uranium deposits in the U.S.

Objection process finds flaws in environmental review

Staff Report

FRISCO — An environmental study for the proposed expansion of uranium mines in Utah was flawed and needs to be redone, a regional U.S. Forest Service officer said last week, rejecting Manti-La Sal Forest Supervisor Brian Pentecost’s earlier decision to permit the project.

Responding to formal objections by environmental groups, the regional reviewing officer said Pentecost erred in deciding the project would not have a significant impact.

“There are statements that lack rational and conclusions formed without supporting data. A decision made from this record would not be well informed,” George Iversion, the objection reviewing officer, wrote in his March 20 letter to the Western Action Mining Project. Continue reading

Court showdown likely in Wolf Creek land swap battle

A map included in the feasibilty analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

A map included in the feasibilty analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

Under pressure from billionaire developer, Forest Service keeps digging itself into a deeper hole

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Conservation advocates in Colorado are bracing for a legal battle with the U.S. Forest Service after the agency last week stayed on course to approve a controversial land exchange that would enable a massive real estate development in the relatively untouched forests around Wolf Creek Pass.

A regional Forest Service officials rejected a series of objections to the swap, finding that the approval didn’t violate any federal laws or agency regulations, but conservation groups say they have obtained documents showing that Maribeth Gustafson, the regional forester who reviewed the objections, may have a conflict of interest because she participated in the process leading to the approval. Continue reading

Will invasive pythons wipe out the Everglades’ mammals?

A Burmese python caught in the Florida Everglades. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

A Burmese python caught in the Florida Everglades. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

Non-native snakes have potentially huge impact to native ecosystems in Everglades National Park

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists working in the Florida Everglades are finding that invasive Burmese pythons are rapidly becoming the biggest predator of small mammals in the wetlands ecosystem.

The researchers found that nearly 80 percent of radio-tracked marsh rabbits that died in the park were eaten by pythons. A year later, there was no sign of a rabbit population in the study area.  Continue reading

Feds propose new rules for public lands fracking

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A fracking rig in western Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Better wells and disclosure, but not enough protection for special areas

Staff Report

*More on public lands fracking in these Summit Voice stories

FRISCO — New fracking rules for federally managed public lands include tighter standards for well-bore integrity, wastewater disposal and disclosure of chemicals, but don’t go far enough to fully protect public health and the environment, according to activist groups, who wanted the Bureau of Land Management to adopt more stringent regulations. Continue reading

Cherished Colorado areas at risk as House GOP seeks to strip funding for National Conservation Lands

Budget cutting would threaten robust recreation economy

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An arch in Colorado’s Rattlesnake Canyon, part of the system of National Conservation Lands. Photo courtesy BLM.

Staff ReportFRISCO — House Republicans are continuing their nearly relentless attack on public lands with a threatened move to take away funding for more than 30 million acres of National Conservation Lands, including popular Colorado areas like the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and McInnis Canyons NCA.Gutting the budget for the National Conservation Lands threatens access to public lands that drive the nation’s outdoor economy and provide a livelihood for many Westerners.

The push by the House Resources Committee is at odds with President Obama’s budget, which recognizes these lands are underfunded and proposes an increase in funding. Dozens of national monuments and national conservation areas across the West—places like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas — would have to shut their doors. Continue reading

Proposed new oil and gas leases in Wyoming cut into the heart of important greater sage-grouse habitat

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Sage grouse don’t much like these drilling rigs.

Wyoming greater sage-grouse populations down 60 percent in last few years

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say proposed new oil and gas leases on 89,000 acres in northwestern Wyoming would devastate greater sage-grouse in the region by permitting industrial operations in some of the birds’ most important nesting and rearing habitat.

In a comment letter to the federal government, the  Center for Biological Diversity wrote that, even sage grouse have declined 60 percent over six years in Wyoming, the plan repeatedly ignores federal scientists’ recommendations for protecting these prairie birds from fossil fuel development. Continue reading

Forest Service finalizes national snowmobile rules

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Snowmobiles at Vail Pass, Colorado.

New policy requires designation of motorized winter use

Staff Report

FRISCO — With the recent huge growth in motorized winter sports, the Forest Service has been behind the curve in managing public lands, but last month, the agency released its final policy for managing snowmobile and other “over-snow” vehicle use.

As directed by court order, the policy requires that roads, trails and areas where over-snow vehicle use can occur be specifically designated by local Forest Service mangers. Previously, managers had the discretion to decide whether to designate specific areas for over-snow vehicle use. Continue reading

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