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Major wildfires still burning unchecked in Colorado

Airtankers expected to join battle against fires today

Big Meadows fire Rocky Mountain National Park Arial view

A June 11 aerial view of the Big Meadows fire in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Colorado wildfire map June 2013

Colorado wildfire map June 2013.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Authorities say they still don’t know the cause of destructive Black Forest Fire, which is still burning uncontained and has destroyed dozens of houses in El Paso County.

The fire has spread across several thousand acres since it started June 11 and more than 2,000 homes are still under evacuation orders. About 150 firefighters are trying to establish defensive lines to protect other at-risk homes in an area that lacks fire hydrants, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Continue reading

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Colorado: Trail Ridge Road open for the season

Park staff dig out Alpine Visitor Center, 11,796 feet on May 23, 2013.

Park staff dig out Alpine Visitor Center, 11,796 feet on May 23, 2013. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park.

High-elevation visitor center and store to open next week

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A series of late-season storms didn’t prevent national park crews from opening Trail Ridge Road right on time this year, although Rocky Mountain National Park rangers say there could be nighttime closures because heavy melting on the road during the day and freezing temperatures at night.

The Alpine Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Store are expected to open sometime next week, according to a release from the park. Trail Ridge Road historically opens on Memorial Day weekend. Last year the road opened early on May 14 after record warmth in March. Continue reading

$1.7 million grant boosts Rocky Mountain Greenway

greenway map

The Rocky Mountain Greenway will help connect residents if the Denver metro area with the great outdoors. Map courtesy USFWS.

Open space vision aims to connect cities with wildlife refuges, parks and open space

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A $1.7 million grant from the federal government will help move the metro Denver area closer to the final vision of the Rocky Mountain Greenway, with uninterrupted trails and open space connecting communities in the region.

“The Rocky Mountain Greenway is a shining example of what happens when strong federal, state, local and private partnerships align to take the vision of this uninterrupted trail and open space network and turn it into a reality for the Denver metropolitan area,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. “Already we’ve constructed important links in the Greenway, and today’s funding will help complete another critical section to connect Denver’s hundreds of miles of trails.” Continue reading

Colorado: Rocky Mountain NP eyes multi-use trails

Park service taking comment to help shape plan

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Multi-use trails could help ease congestion in Rocky Mountain National Park.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Rocky Mountain National Park planners are taking comment on a plan for a multi-use trail system that would extend approximately 15.5 miles from the Fall River Entrance to Sprague Lake, with potential connections to three visitor centers, three campgrounds, and numerous hiker shuttle stops.

The trail update is based on a 2009 feasibility study that looked at the developed eastern portion of the park. The current study will examine the possible options for the multi-use trail alignments and analyze potential environmental impacts.

The new park trail system could connect with trails being developed in the Estes Valley, helping to reduce traffic congestion, and to evaluate multimodal options (including connections to the shuttle system) along the developed corridor of roads on the east side of the park. If constructed, the trail would be located outside designated wilderness. Continue reading

Colorado: Fern Lake Fire flares up; 583 homes in Estes Park area evacuated

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The Fern Lake Fire, in Rocky Mountain National Park, burns through tree tops in this Nov. 27 photo by Dennis Geving.

Lake Dillon firefighters respond to call for assistance

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado’s continued snow drought manifested Friday night in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the Fern Lake Fire flared up in an area that’s usually covered with snow this time of year.

Winds of up to 75 mph pushed the fire to the southwest, where a spot fire ignited in the horseshoe of unburned fuel west of the confluence of Spruce and Forest canyons.

The flare-up resulted in new evacuation orders along Highway 66 and all adjacent streets, including the YMCA, High Drive and all adjacent streets, Marys Lake Road up to Moraine Ave. to Marys Lake on the west side. More than 1, 100 contacts made through this original reverse notification. Continue reading

Colorado: Fern Lake Fire uncontained at 660 acres but incoming weather could help firefighters gain upper hand

Smoke from the Fern Lake Fire as seen from Moraine Park campground. Photo courtesy Ann Schonlau/NPS.

Some park roads and trails remain closed

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters battling the uncontained 660-acre Fern Lake Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park should get a little help from the weather, with some significant moisture forecast to move through the area Friday night.

The fire is burning west of the Fern Lake Trailhead on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. A national fire management team took over command at the fire Friday, as park officials announced a full suppression strategy for fighting the fire. Continue reading

Wildfire burning in Rocky Mountain National Park

Several roads and trails closed

The 300-acre Fern Lake Fire is burning west of Estes Park, Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — National Park Service officials say a a 300 acre fire burning about two miles west of the Fern Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park has spurred the closure of several roads and trails, including Bear Lake Road, Moraine Park Campground, all trails west of Bear Lake Road and south of Trail Ridge Road, and Upper Beaver Meadows Road.

According to the Larimer County emergency services website, the fire is burning about .25 to .5 miles west of  “The Pool,” about 1.5 miles east of Fern Lake  Smoke is easily from the town of Estes Park. Movement  is toward the east and north due to gusty winds. This is well away from any structures but there is some concern for the area in the vicinity of the Moraine Park Campground should the fire move east. The cause is under investigation.

Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Fire personnel and equipment are standing by and Larimer County Emergency Services unit also responded to the fire Tuesday afternoon.

A single engine air tanker has been ordered to the scene, and Larimer County officials said it’s not known what other air attack resources have been ordered.

For more information, call the Rocky Mountain National Park information line at 970-586-1206

Rocky Mountain NP BioBlitz documents 490 species

Science event draws thousands of visitors

One of 490 species inventoried during the 2012 BioBlitz at Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo courtesy Clay Bolt/National Geographic Society.

Students participate in the 2012 BioBlitz at Rocky Mountain National Park’s Lily Lake in Colorado, a 24-hour species inventory and Biodiversity Festival Aug. 24-25, hosted by National Geographic and The National Park Service.
©Karine Aigner/Meet Your Neighbours/iLCP.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — In the age of video games and handheld virtual reality, it’s not always easy to drag kids out of the house and into the great outdoors. But an Aug. 24-25 BioBlitz at Rocky Mountain National Park drew more than 5,000 participants, including both leading researchers as well as Front Range school kids who had a chance to visit the park for the first time.

Along with some scientific research that will pay dividends for months and years, the two-day event was marked by an amazing number of personal discoveries, said chief of resource stewardship Ben Bobowski, who coordinated the bioblitz. Continue reading

Environment: EPA approves Colorado clean air plan

Regional haze reduction efforts should help reduce pollution along Front Range and in Rocky Mountain National Park

A computer-generated split-screen image a split-image simulates the average 20 percent best (left) and 20 percent worst 20 percent (right) visibility at the Long’s Peak vista based on an average of monitored data for years 2000-2004.

Ozone damage on the leaf of a cutleaf coneflower manifests in the form of black stipules. Photo courtesy RMNP.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new EPA-sanctioned clean air plan could be just what the doctor ordered for Rocky Mountain National Park, where rangers had to hoist ozone warnings 17 times this summer, after an average of about five to seven each of the last few years.

Ozone readings also spiked at numerous other locations, especially along the Front Range, and farther out into the eastern plains, where ozone previously hasn’t been a big problem.

Officials blamed the long, hot summer, which cooked the deadly mix of nitrogen oxides and other compounds into a smoggy soup that stresses respiratory systems, clouds visibility and harms plants even in the high alpine zone of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Clean air advocates say that, despite tough state rules, increasing oil and gas drilling along the Front Range are contributing to the increased frequency of ozone spikes, and say that global warming adds to the challenges of controlling ozone smog.

The regional haze plan approved by the EPA this week is a good step in the right direction, according to Environmental Defense Fund attorney Pam Campos, explaining that the plan includes hard targets for reducing emissions by retiring some old coal-burning power plants, converting some to natural gas and making sure other industrial facilities cut emissions. Continue reading

U.S. and Costa Rica parks strengthen conservation ties

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, in Guanacaste National Park, Costa Rica. Photo via the Creative Commons.

New agreement to boost joint planning efforts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new international agreement between U.S. National Park Service and Costa Rica’s Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion will step up cooperation for planning, development, management and operation of protected natural parks and cultural sites.

The two agencies will also share information in fire management and control, climate change adaptation, marine protected areas and the development of educational and public information.

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and his Costa Rican counterpart, Rafael Gutierrez Rojas, signed the deal this week, formalizing historic conservation partnerships between the two countries. Continue reading

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