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

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

What drives extreme fires? It’s mostly the weather

Forest Service scientists study aftermath of Rim Fire to assess effectiveness of forest health treatments

A NASA Earth Observatory image shows smoke plumes from the Rim Fire in August, 2013. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.

A NASA Earth Observatory image shows smoke plumes from the Rim Fire in August, 2013. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A detailed new study of fire behavior of the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite provides a nuanced view of the effectiveness of forest health treatments.

The Rim Fire was the largest recorded fire in the Sierra Nevada region, and U.S. Forest Service researchers said in their study that the fire burned with moderate to high intensity on days the Rim Fire was dominated by a large pyro-convective plume, a powerful column of smoke, gases, ash, and other debris — regardless of the number of prior fires, topography, or forest conditions. Continue reading

Forest Service seeks comment on plan to build new road to a private inholding on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area

Access law obligates Forest Service to consider road access

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Will this be the ultimate ski-in, ski-out cabin at Breckenridge?

Staff Report

FRISCO — The owners of a 10-acre private parcel surrounded by national forest lands on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area may soon have the ultimate ski-in, ski-out cabin.

The U.S. Forest Service this week started taking public comment on a plan to provide access to the private inholding, located near the top of the Zendo Chair and base of the Kensho chair. Continue reading

Colorado: More fracking coming to the Pawnee National Grasslands

Feds finalizing oil and gas development plan for 100,000 acres of public land

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Oil and gas drilling is spreading northeastward into the Pawnee National Grasslands. Map courtesy WildEarth Guardians.

Staff Report

FRISCO — If it sometimes feels like fracking is closing in wherever you look, it’s because it is. One of the latest arenas for fossil fuel exploitation is on the Pawnee National Grasslands, in northeastern Colorado, described by the U.S. Forest Service as the country’s last remaining shortgrass prairie. Continue reading

Public Lands: Forest Service chief says journalists won’t have to pay to take photos in wilderness areas

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Sunrise in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Gore Range, Colorado.

Forest Service chief clarifies proposed directive on commercial permits

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —After a few days of scathing news reports and commentaries, the U.S. Forest Service made it clear that a new policy on wilderness photography and filming won’t apply to journalists or visitors taking snapshots for their own use.

The update came from Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, who said in a prepared statement that the agency is committed to the First Amendment.

“To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities,” Tidwell said, going on to describe the agency’s effort standardize permitting and to ensure that the public gets fair value for commercial activities in wilderness areas. Continue reading

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