Morning photo: Fields

Pastoral beauty

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Fallow fields in Grand Junction, Colorado, with the Grand Mesa as a backdrop.

FRISCO — I haven’t joined in the #FriFotos Twitter chat for a few months, but when I saw this week’s topic, I did a quick scan of the Summit Voice archives to find some of my favorite pictures of fields around the world, starting right here at home in Colorado and ranging as far as Iceland and Antarctica. On a recent trip, Leigh and I had a chance to visit Iceland, and amidst the wondrous ice fields and stunning coastline, we were fascinated by the lava fields, some of which are carpeted with a squishy, thick layer of moss. Upload your field photos via Flickr, Twitter or Instagram, tag them with #FriFotos and then enjoy the global slide show! Continue reading

June 2013 temps run 2 degrees above average

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NOAA report says it was the 15-warmest June on record

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Temperatures last month across the U.S. were 2 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average, making it the 15th-warmest June on record for the contiguous 48 states.

It was also the 13th-wettest June on record, precipitation 0.54 inches above the 20th century average, according to the monthly update from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

Most of the above-average heat was focused along the East Coast and in the West, where California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all reported top-10 readings for June. Continue reading

Morning photo: West!

It’s not ALWAYS wild …

Looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge makes you realize you're about as far west as you can be in the U.S.

Looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge makes you realize you’re about as far west as you can be in the U.S.

FRISCO — When I saw this week’s #FriFotos theme I was pretty excited. After the West is where I first really spread my photography wings and learned to fly. In the early days, it was all I could do to hold the camera steady and straight while taking in those jaw-dropping vistas. Today, places like the Golden Gate Bridge still make my jaw drop, but thanks to digital photography and a slightly more sophisticated approach and technique, I do manage to capture a decent shot every now and then. Join in the Twitter chat fun by uploading your favorite west-themed pics and tagging with #FriFotos and posting them to Twitter. Continue reading

Feds prepping for what could be another bad wildfire season

The High Park Fire burns west of Fort Collins in June, 2012.

The High Park Fire burns west of Fort Collins in June, 2012.

Comments wanted on draft fire management strategy

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After an exceptional western fire season that included the largest wildfire ever in New Mexico, the second-largest in Colorado and the largest in Oregon since the 1860s, land managers are starting to brace for another long summer.

With parts of the West facing a second consecutive year of drought, there is some concern that 2013 could be even worse than 2012, which ended up ranked third all-time for the amount of land impact by wildfires. According to the year-end stats, wildfires burned across a footprint of about 9.2 million acres. All three of the biggest wildfire seasons on record have occurred during the past 10 years, coinciding with the hottest decade on record. Continue reading

Senate balks on wildfire preparedness funding

Udall amendment would have boosted Forest Service readiness

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A crown fire burns through a western forest. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with budget gridlock, the U.S. Senate this week rejected an effort by two western senators to fully fund the U.S. Forest Service’s wildfire budget for 2013.

Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) had previously offered a budget amendment to pay for pre-placement of firefighters and equipment in anticipation of a wildfire season that could be even worse than last summer’s, which included the two most destructive wildfires in Colorado history, the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires.

“These additional funds would have ensured that the U.S. Forest Service was prudently and appropriately prepared to help prevent and fight catastrophic wildfires next year in Colorado and across the West,” Udall said. “I am concerned that the U.S. Senate has decided to turn a blind eye to these predictable disaster needs,” he said. Continue reading

Climate: Western states eye continued drought

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Reservoir storage is well below average across the West.

Reservoir storage near record low in some states

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Without a surplus moisture this winter, drought conditions are likely to linger, and potentially even worsen, across parts of the West in 2013, according to the Western Governors’ Association, which last week released its new Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook.

Publication of the latest edition of the outlook came shortly after Dec. 12-13 National Drought Forum in Washington, D.C. The overall outlook is for drought to persist across most of the northern Great Basin south to New Mexico and Arizona and east into the high plains.

“Drought impacts next year could be far more severe, especially given that the reservoir storage in many basins has been depleted,” said Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who spoke at the event.

The cold season is typically the driest part of the year in most mid‐continental  locations, so even with average seasonal precipitation, there will likely be little relief from the drought, according to the National Drought Monitor. The exceptions are Montana and California, where some relief is expected, based on early season precipitation.

New Mexico has been hardest hit, with reservoir  storage at just 18 percent of capacity, but storage is below average in all western state except Montana and Washington.

  • The national drought conference identified some of the mitigation strategies for addressing the ongoing drought, including:
  • Regular, real‐time coordination and information sharing on the status, impacts, and prospects for drought throughout 2013
  • Identification of priority basins or projects that are severely affected by drought, in order to focus mitigatioon strategies for 2013
  • Coordination with USDA on federal disaster declarations and drought relief programs
    Working with the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge critical reservoirs and enhance storage capacity in the West.

Link between global warming and wildfires becoming more clear

The Eagle Creek Fire in Montana burns late in the 2012 wildfire season. Photo courtesy Inciweb/Air Attack.

Report outlines surge in fires since 1970s, as spring and summer temps increase and the snow melts earlier

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nearly all western states have seen a huge surge in wildfires during the past 10 years, as warmer temperatures and earlier snowmelt make old forests more susceptible to large-scale blazes, according to a report issued by Climate Central.

The report also cites changed land-use practices and insect infestations as additional factors, and decades-long intensive fire suppression has also resulted in more widespread areas of fire-prone forests.

But the preponderance of evidence suggests that global warming will increase the likelihood of large fires into the future, with fire seasons up to 75 days longer than just 40 years ago — about the time the greenhouse-gas heating cycle kicked into high gear. Continue reading

Wildfire activity surges past 10-year average

Fire risk expected to continue in northern Rockies

Monthly outlook

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wildfire activity across the U.S. has surged past the 10-year rolling average in the past few weeks, with major fires still burning in the northern Rockies, as well as the potential for big fires in the far West, as California hits the peak of the dry season.

Nationally, wildfires have now burned across about 7.6 million acres, more than last year’s total of 6.9 million acres, when massive fires scorched Texas and part of the Southwest.

This year’s total is the highest since 2006 (7.6 million acres) and nearly 2 million acres more than the 10-year rolling average of 5.9 million acres. Continue reading

Draft report outlines greater sage-grouse conservation goals

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

States, BLM trying to stave off an endangered species listing

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new draft report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may help provide a road map for greater sage-grouse conservation by identifying high-risk populations of the birds, outlining specific measures needed to avoid or mitigate impacts and setting population conservation goals.

The draft report is part of a multi-state planning aimed at protecting sage grouse and enabling economic growth, including oil and gas development, across the interior West.

The USFWS is working toward a court-ordered deadline for making a decision whether list greater sage-grouse as threatened or endangered. As part of that process, the Bureau of Land Management is updating land management plans across huge swaths of the West. At the same time, western states are also involved in trying to develop sage grouse conservation plans, hoping to forestall an endangered species listing. Continue reading

Morning photo: Wild west

Wide open spaces …

Sunset in Palisade, Colorado.

Photos by Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — I pulled together today’s photo essay as I was preparing for the popular Twitter #Expchat, a weekly forum for sharing travel information. I was struck by one thing: In all the thousands of tweets relating to travel in the West, not a single one mentioned shopping, nor did anyone say they wanted to visit Colorado and the West to look at gas drilling rigs. That’s not really a surprise. It’s the region’s wide open and protected spaces that are the real draw, and lawmakers, policy makers and other involved in developing management policies for these lands should take heed. Continue reading

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