About these ads

Wildfires: Budget woes to affect fuels treatments, post-fire rehab

dfg

A wildfire burns in Keystone Gulch, near the base of Keystone Ski Area, in June, 2011.

Fewer firefighers, less wildfire fuels treatments and less post-fire rehab

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The federal budget crunch means firefighters will have to do more with less this summer, federal officials said this week. Because of the sequester, the Forest Service will not fill 500 firefighting positions and will make do with 50 less engines on the ground.

“We are facing another dangerous wildfire season. We are prepared; we’re not as funded as we might be about 5 years from now, so teamwork is really critical to what we have to do,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, speaking Monday at a briefing at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise Idaho.

In particular, parts of the West are facing another challenging fire season, with greatest potential threats in the Pacific Coast states and into the interior northwest, including Idaho and southwest Montana, according to the center’s predictive services team. Continue reading

About these ads

Forest Service close to awarding new airtanker contracts

Vilsack says latest contracts could also face protests, despite efforts to minimize potential issues

Feds mobilizing air resources for wildfire season. PHOTO COURTESY KARI GREER/USFS.

Federal contracts for airtankers have still not been finalized for the 2013 wildfire season. Photo courtesy Kari Greer/USFS.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Last week’s Galena Fire near Fort Collins was a stark reminder that firefighters need to be ready for the upcoming season, which could be long and hot in of the country.

Wrangling over air tanker contracts has already delayed Forest Service efforts to bring new planes online, but U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack this week said he’s done everything possible to make sure that up to seven “next-generation” large air tankers will be available for the 2013 fire season. Continue reading

Activists challenge USDA chief on climate-drought links

Groups want top federal officials to be more upfront about global warming

Drought is devastating a wide swath of U.S. farmlands.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Environmental activists want top federal officials to directly address the possible connections between climate change and the current drought that’s crushing the life out of U.S. heartland, with potential implications for global food supplies.

Specifically, Forecast the Facts and FoodDemocracyNow! want Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to directly address the massive implications of manmade climate change for our entire farming sector. Scientists are clear that climate change is already leading to more extreme weather, such as longer and more severe droughts, according to Daniel Souweine, campaign director for Forecast the Facts. Continue reading

Colorado: Agriculture to take big hit from drought

With extreme drought spreading across Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper is seeking to get ahead of the curve for federal disaster relief.

Gov. Hickenlooper seeks federal drought aid

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Several Colorado counties already meet federal criteria for drought relief, and more could be eligible soon, as farmers start to harvest wheat weeks ahead of schedule and some ranchers consider selling their cattle in the face of continued dry conditions.

In some parts of the state, ranchers won’t be able to grow enough hay to feed their cattle through the winter. Other areas were hit by an April frost after record warm temps in March spurred fruit trees to bloom.

As a result, Gov. John Hickenlooper last week requested drought assistance from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Continue reading

Hickenlooper and top federal officials tour High Park Fire

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lauds cooperation, pledges post-fire assistance and continued focus on forest restoration

High Park Fire map updated June 16 by Larimer County. Click on the image to download the large pdf version.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, top federal officials toured the High Park Fire zone Saturday, then emphasized the high level of cooperation between local volunteer fire departments, the Colorado Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service in working to contain the 55,000-acre wildfire, now one of the largest on record in Colorado.

Though more than 100 homes have been reported destroyed, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at an afternoon press conference that cooperation helped save thousands of other structures that were potentially in harm’s way.

Hickenlooper displayed photo of a tree he said was the source of the High Park Fire, struck by lightning a few days before the blaze grew out of control. He emphasized that the High Park Fire only burned across about 0.2 percent of public lands in the state, seeking to reassure visitors that the state’s forests are still open for recreation. Continue reading

USFS touts wood as low-emission building material

Forest Service leaders say wood matches up well as a green-building material.

Forest Service research shows that timber stacks up well against other building materials

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service is touting the benefits of wood as a green building material, in part to encourage the use of beetle-killed timber from the Rocky Mountain region.

A recent study found that, “harvesting, transporting, manufacturing, and using wood in lumber and panel products in building yields fewer air emissions–including greenhouse gases — than the resource extraction, manufacture, and use of other common building materials.”

Specifically, the report concludes that over a span of 100 years, greenhouse gas emissions from wood-based houses are 20 percent to 50 percent lower than emissions associated with thermally comparable houses using steel or concrete-based building systems. Continue reading

Healthier school lunches on the way with new USDA rules

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to mandate more fruits and vegetables in school lunches, but is facing resistance from the industrial food preparation lobby.

Feds look to boost fruits and veggies while cutting starch and fats

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Just in time for the new school year, the Department of Agriculture is hoping to finalize new rules that require minimum amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in school meals while limiting fats and calories.

Health experts say the new standards will reduce health care costs stemming from health problems partly caused by low-quality school food, including the estimated $344 billion national cost of obesity costs through 2018.

Approximately one in three children is overweight or obese, and rising rates of Type II diabetes among children, along with other health problems such as hypertension, have some origin in the poor nutritional quality of food offered at public schools.

The proposed standards would significantly increase fruit and vegetables at lunch (one cup per day), require that they be served daily, require minimum amounts of dark green vegetables and place limits on starchy vegetables. Continue reading

Forest Service seeking exemptions for beetle-kill work

The ski industry is working with the Forest Service to try and speed the removal of beetle-killed trees.

Regional officials say normal timber contracting procedures are too slow and costly for dealing with the unprecedented emergency

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local ski resorts are working with the US Forest Service and with national and state ski industry trade groups to try and get a special exemption from timber sale requirments  to help speed the work of removing beetle-killed trees from ski area slopes.

Under the regional proposal, ski areas and other special permit use holders like gas and power companies would be able to cut and remove trees without having to go through the red tape of a timber sale contract and without site-specific environmental reviews.

Regional forester Rick Cables sent a letter to the agency’s national leaders in May, explaining that some of the streamlining mechanisms that have already been adopted have helped, but that the problem is so urgent that more flexibility is needed. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,260 other followers