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Congress sets hearing on public lands ‘pay-to-play’ fees

Summit County hiking Colorado

Congress will take input on the controversial federal pay-to-play program this week.

Critics say loopholes enable federal agencies to charge illegal fees

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The federal pay-to-play program will get a once-over in Congress this week, as a House subcommittee hears from agency officials and citizens before the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act expires next year.

At issue are how the fee program for access to public lands is being implemented by federal agencies. The hearing is set to start at 10 a.m. EDT and should be available as webcast via the House Committee on Natural Resources website.

The access fees started in the late 1990s as the so-called fee demo program, enabling federal land agencies to charge fees as long the money was used to improve the area where it was collected. Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Forest Service rejects appeal of Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area

Opponents of controversial expansion considering legal action

The Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski area would add about 550 acres of new terrain.

*Read all Summit Voice Peak 6 stories

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Barring legal action, Breckenridge Ski Area could start implementing the controversial Peak 6 expansion as soon as early December after regional Forest Service officials rejected an appeal filed by a coalition of conservation groups, skiers and local residents. Read the appeal here.

Scott Armentrout, Supervisor of the Gunnison, Uncompahgre and Grand Mesa National Forests, the appeal reviewing officer, wrote Nov. 14 that he found that the approval for the project did not violate any federal laws, regulations or policies and recommended upholding White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams’ decision to approve the 550-acre expansion.

The formal decision was made by appeals deciding officer Brian Ferebee, a deputy regional forester for resources. Read the full appeal decision here, and a summary of the appeal decision here.

“I agree with the ARO’s analysis as presented in the enclosed letter. All appeal issues raised have been considered and the record is adequate to support the Forest Supervisor’s decision,” Ferebee wrote in his Nov. 19 decision letter. “I affirm the Forest Supervisor’s decision to approve the Breckenridge Ski Area Peak 6 Project. I deny requested relief to set aside the decision or complete additional analysis.” Continue reading

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Summit County: Forest Service says, ‘Give us a chance’ on proposed Tenderfoot Mountain motorized trail system

County officials feel slighted by federal bureaucrats

Motorized riders enjoy cruising a road near the Summit County landfill on lower Tenderfoot Mountain. Bob Berwyn photo.

Related stories

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A plan by the U.S. Forest Service to build 13 miles of new trails for motorized use on Tenderfoot Mountain has put the agency on a collision course with local residents who have fought the plan from its earliest stages. Despite some changes from the original proposal, most residents of the affected area remain adamantly opposed.

Meanwhile, Forest Service rangers are asking the community to give the project a chance, claiming that motorized users will police themselves to make sure that impacts don’t spread beyond the trail system that would span about 1,800 acres on the hillsides above Highway 6 between Dillon and Summit Cove.

The Forest Service released an environmental assessment for the project in mid-November, triggering a 30-day public comment period. Based on the final round of feedback, agency officials will release a final decision on the trail system sometime this winter. All the Forest Service documents relating to the proposal, including comment information, are at this WRNF web page. Continue reading

Election 2012: Arizona voters reject a special interest-driven bid to claim control over federally managed public lands

Arizona voters rejected a bid by some special interest groups to claim control over 27 million acres of federally managed public lands. Map courtesy Center for Biological Diversity.

Land grab seen as a waste of time and money by many state residents

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Arizona may have voted for failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a big way, but a ballot initiative aimed at claiming state control of federally managed public lands in the state didn’t get much of a coattail effect.

Proposition 120, criticized by most as a massively expensive land grab, failed at the polls this week, as voters rejected the amendment to the Arizona Constitution that would have declared the state’s sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state’s boundaries.

The land grab would have covered some 27 million acres of public land, including 23 national parks, monuments and recreation areas spanning 3.3 million acres; 90 wilderness areas spanning 4.5 million acres; 10 national wildlife refuges spanning 1.7 million acres; two wild and scenic rivers spanning over 82 river miles; six national forests spanning 11.8 million acres; and 12.1 million acres of lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity. Continue reading

Report: Wildfire mitigation work largely ineffective in moderating the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder

Due to surface fuel accumulation, Fourmile Canyon Fire burned more intensely in some treated zones

Even widely spaced trees can readily ignite and burn when crowns extend down to the  forest  floor near surface fuels.  Photo courtesy USFS/Molly Wineteer.

This logged area in Summit County near I-70 may be more susceptible to a catastrophic crown fire because of the high concentration of surface and ladder fuels left after the treatment. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —A report on the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire will probably raise more questions than it answers for firefighters and land managers, concluding that, in some cases, the ferocious fire near Boulder may have burned more intensely in treated areas than in adjacent untreated stands.

That may have been due to the relatively high concentration of surface fuels remaining after treatments, as well as the higher wind speeds that can occur in open forests compared to those with denser canopies, Forest Service researchers concluded in the report published last month.

Up until the horrific fire storms of this summer, the Fourmile Canyon blaze was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history measured by the number of homes lost (162), and a recently finalized U.S. Forest Service report on the Fourmile Canyon fire is eerily prescient. Continue reading

Colorado: Arapahoe & Roosevelt NF to close 29,000 acres for hazard tree work after visitors ignore earlier restrictions

Grand County hunters to affected by forest closures

A large chunk of the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest will be closed for several weeks in late summer and fall.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service and local authorities in Grand County will be closing 29,000 acres of Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forest lands for several weeks starting in early September to cut beetle-killed hazard trees from along roads and trails in the area. The closure is expected to run from Sept. 4 to Nov. 15, affecting hunters, hikers, cyclists and other forest visitors.

The widepsread restrictions are being implemented after locals and visitors ignored earlier closures for smaller projects in the area, forcing the Forest Service to shut down summer logging operations for safety reasons. In one of the areas hit hardest by pine beetles, the Forest Service wants to remove dead and dying trees from along more than 150 miles of  high-use, forest service roads and trails over a several year period.

Along with local community leaders, special interest groups and Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials, the agency decided a larger, more enforceable closure area was necessary, both for public safety and to complete the work efficiently.

Winter Park, Fraser and Grand County community leaders have re-affirmed their support for these projects and offered assistance in both law enforcement patrols and working with the public. Information will be posted at all the major entries to the closure areas as well as at the Winter Park Visitor’s Center, Fraser Visitor’s Center, Winter Park Resort and through local businesses and lodging companies. Continue reading

Breckenridge: Forest Service OKs Peak 6 expansion

Pending appeals and lawsuits, resort could get two new lifts

A map for the proposed alternative from the USFS Record of Decision outlines the Peak 6 expansion.

By Bob Berwyn

*Read about continuing community concerns in this Summit Voice story.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Pending the outcome of potential appeals and lawsuits, Breckenridge Ski Area will be permitted to add about 550 acres of terrain on Peak 6, served by two new lifts.

White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams Tuesday announced his decision to approve the hotly contested expansion, saying it will help reduce congestion on the busy mountain. Forest Service documents on the expansion are online at the WRNF website. Continue reading

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