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Environment: Bring back the grizzly!

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Room to roam for grizzlies the West.

Petition calls for widespread restoration effort for apex predators

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Grizzly bears, once ranging 100,000 strong, once ranged widely through western North America, from the Arctic down to Mexico and from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains. The mighty predators have disappeared from most of their historic territory, but there’s no reason they couldn’t make a comeback, according to wildlife advocates with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The group, best known for working ceaselessly to protected endangered species, has filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to greatly expand its plans for recovering grizzly bears. Preliminary studies suggest there are at least 11o,ooo square miles of potentia habitat in places like the Gila/Mogollon complex in Arizona and New Mexico, Utah’s Uinta Mountains, California’s Sierra Nevada and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Outside the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide populations, very little progress has been made recovering grizzlies. Remaining populations cover an area that is a mere 4 percent of the bears’ historic range and only 22 percent of potentially suitable habitat identified by researchers. Continue reading

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Western streamflow forecasts a mixed bag

Severe drought continues in Southwest

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California, Arizona and New Mexico reporting very dry conditions.

By Summit VoiceFRISCO — Snowpack across the West is still somewhat of mixed bag in this no-Niño winter, but February storms did help bolster water supplies across the northern tier of states, according to the monthly update from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

East of the Continental Divide as well as parts of Washington, northern Oregon, northern Idaho and western Montana are now forecast to have near-normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast from the NRCS National Water and Climate Center. Continue reading

Environment: USGS study measures success of abandoned mine cleanups in Montana

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Abandoned mine cleanups can help clean up polluted streams, a new USGS study in Montana finds. 

Water quality improving in Upper Clark Fork Basin

Staff Report

FRISCO — There are hopeful signs that the ongoing cleanup of abandoned mines around the West will pay off.

The U.S. Geological Survey, reported decreased levels  of toxic heavy metals in the streams of Montana’s Upper Clark Fork Basin that have been targeted by remediation efforts. Continue reading

Colorado River District seminar to focus on dwindling snowpack, state water plan and Lake Powell woes

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North American spring-season snow cover extent has declined steadily in recent decades, according to measurements from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab.

‘Shrinking in supply, growing in demand’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Since the 1980s, warmer spring temperatures in the Rocky Mountain region have been melting the snowpack earlier, with increasing temperatures tabbed as the main factor in the decline, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency carefully tracks streamflows and snowpack measurements, with decades of data now showing clear trends toward shorter winters, earlier spring runoff and an overall 20 percent shrinkage of the snowpack in the mountains of the western U.S.

The researchers say at least part of the changes are due to global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases, but that natural variability is also a factor. Regardless of the exact cause, the snowpack decline is already causing major headaches for water managers in the region facing dwindling supplies and increased demand.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District will focus on some of the emerging critical water questions during its annual water seminar (Sept. 13, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) in Grand Junction. USGS researcher Greg Pederson, who is the lead author on some of the key snowpack studies, will discuss how spring is killing the Rocky Mountain snowpack, especially at lower elevations, where the effects of warmer temperatures are more pronounced. Continue reading

Morning photo: Flyover

West Coast-Denver flight a great geology lesson

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Salty Mono Lake is a unique inland sea in eastern California, and an enduring symbol of success for environmental advocacy, activism and education.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — I’m one of those annoying airplane passengers who always wants a window seat. If I don’t have one, I may be the guy next to you who leans across your lap to catch a glimpse of a familiar or exotic landscape from 35,000 feet up. I’m pretty sure I’ve always been that way, even as a kid, when on family trips, I stared out of the plane window for hours.

Even on trips across the ocean, the ever-changing patterns of sunlight reflecting on the sea and shifting cloud bands hypnotizes me. And if I’m flying over territory that I’ve explored on the ground, so much the better. It’s always fun to spot a familiar landmark from a new perspective.

So on a recent flight from the Bay Area back to Denver, it was a gift to fly over Mono Lake, where I spent some formative years learning about western water issues and environmental advocacy from the incredible grassroots Mono Lake Committee. Later in the flight, the widespread landscape alteration from oil and gas drilling in the intermountain West became apparent, along with slices of untouched Utah wilderness and national park lands.

In this series, the stark light of mid-day and the muted colors of winter paint a subdued picture of the interior West, especially through the filters of my iPhone app. All these images were shot with an iPhone 4S. Continue reading

BLM seeks more humane wild horse program

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Federal resource managers continue to make changes to its wild horse and burro program. Photo courtesy BLM.

New policies aimed at boosting transparency

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — seeking to address the concerns of animal welfare advocates, the Bureau of Land Management this announced internal policy changes to its national Wild Horse and Burro Program that will help strengthen the humane treatment of animals and increase public transparency of management.

“These changes are part of our ongoing commitment to ensure the humane treatment of animals that are gathered from our public rangelands,” said acting BLM Director Mike Pool. “In addition, increasing public transparency is a cornerstone of this Administration’s approach to our work.  These new policies represent significant and substantial improvements, and we anticipate additional steps in the future to continue to strengthen this program.” Continue reading

Feds on high alert for July 4th wildfires

Forest Service, BLM to step up enforcement of fireworks ban

A June, 2011 wildfire in Keystone Gulch burned within a few hundred feet of vacation homes and full-time residences at the Colorado resort. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal land managers will step up enforcement of a personal fireworks ban in the West (covering Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming) and increase patrols and enforcement.

Orders from the top also say that land managers must coordinate across the West to reduce the rist of new fires and to prepare for an efficient response if they do start. And, as a no-brainer, the memo prohibits any prescribed burns while dangerous wildfire conditions prevail. Continue reading

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