Public lands: President Obama to move ahead with Browns Canyon national monument designation

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Browns Canyon, in central Colorado, will be designated as a national monument by President Barack Obama.

Central Colorado gorge a key piece of state’s recreation economy

Staff Report

FRISCO — A long campaign by public land advocates and their political allies has paid off, as President Barack Obama will use his executive power under the Antiquities Act to designate Browns Canyon, in Chaffee County, as a national monument.

Along with Browns Canyon, Obama is also designating the Honouliuli Internment Camp in Hawaii and Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood. An official White House announcement is expected Thursday. Continue reading

Public lands: Obama’s budget includes boost for national parks

Infrastructure repair, education and outreach targeted

Camping in the backcountry wilderness of Great Sand Dunes National Park. Click on the image to visit the park website.

Camping in the backcountry wilderness of Great Sand Dunes National Park. Click on the image to visit the park website.

Staff Report

FRISCO – The National Park Service could see funding for essential programs and operational needs climb $432.9 million this year under President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016.

“This is an investment in ‘America’s best idea’ that pays dividends in gateway communities across the nation,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.”For every dollar appropriated to the National Park Service in the President’s 2016 Centennial budget, $10 is returned to the American economy in the form of visitor spending, travel and tourism and construction jobs,” Jarvis said. The funds will help parks upgrade aging infrastructure and respond to climate change, he added. Continue reading

Jared Polis to serve on House Resources Committee

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Congressman Jared Polis.

Colorado lawmaker expected to be a pro-environment voice on a panel led conservative Republicans who often undermine federal efforts to manage public lands on the behalf of all Americans

Staff Report

FRISCO — A languishing proposal to create new wilderness areas in the Colorado mountains may get a boost in Congress this year, as U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) joins the House Natural Resources Committee.

In the last two years, the committee has been a bastion of anti-government rhetoric, in some cases considering bills that would significantly weaken protection for natural resources and public lands. As a member of the minority, Polis won’t be able to get any meaningful legislation passed on his own, but his pro-environmental voice will be a welcome addition for public lands advocates. Continue reading

Forest Service delays final decision on controversial Wolf Creek land trade and development scheme

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A proposed resort development near Wolf Creek Pass and the nearby ski area would irrevocably change the character of the area for the worse.

Conservation advocates vow all-out battle to halt unwanted backcountry development

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service will take an extra 30 days to scrutinize a controversial land trade that would open the door for construction of a full-scale resort village near Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.

In November, Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas approved the swap, triggering a 45-day objection period. Now, Deputy Regional Forester Maribeth Gustafson is extending the objection resolution period for 30 days. Read a detailed story on the proposed trade here. Continue reading

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

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