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Environment: EPA approves Colorado clean air plan

Regional haze reduction efforts should help reduce pollution along Front Range and in Rocky Mountain National Park

A computer-generated split-screen image a split-image simulates the average 20 percent best (left) and 20 percent worst 20 percent (right) visibility at the Long’s Peak vista based on an average of monitored data for years 2000-2004.

Ozone damage on the leaf of a cutleaf coneflower manifests in the form of black stipules. Photo courtesy RMNP.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new EPA-sanctioned clean air plan could be just what the doctor ordered for Rocky Mountain National Park, where rangers had to hoist ozone warnings 17 times this summer, after an average of about five to seven each of the last few years.

Ozone readings also spiked at numerous other locations, especially along the Front Range, and farther out into the eastern plains, where ozone previously hasn’t been a big problem.

Officials blamed the long, hot summer, which cooked the deadly mix of nitrogen oxides and other compounds into a smoggy soup that stresses respiratory systems, clouds visibility and harms plants even in the high alpine zone of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Clean air advocates say that, despite tough state rules, increasing oil and gas drilling along the Front Range are contributing to the increased frequency of ozone spikes, and say that global warming adds to the challenges of controlling ozone smog.

The regional haze plan approved by the EPA this week is a good step in the right direction, according to Environmental Defense Fund attorney Pam Campos, explaining that the plan includes hard targets for reducing emissions by retiring some old coal-burning power plants, converting some to natural gas and making sure other industrial facilities cut emissions. Continue reading

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Montana faces lawsuit over lynx impacts from trapping

A lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

At least four lynx have been killed by traps intended for other species

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A ski area expansion like Peak 6 might displace one or two lynx, but that’s nothing compared to the direct mortality that has occurred from legal trapping in Montana.

At least nine lynx have been caught in traps since the species was listed in 2000 and four are known to have died — as a result, four conservation groups say they will sue the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission for permitting the trapping.

“Montana has failed to safeguard lynx from the cruel vicissitudes of traps and snares, and that has resulted in the death and impairment of several animals, which impedes lynx recovery,” said Wendy Keefover, carnivore protection program director for WildEarth Guardians. Continue reading

In a federal court settlement, BLM agrees to do more air quality studies on Colorado Front Range gas drilling

A Jan. 17 court-ordered settlement on gas drilling air quality impacts covers all of eastern Colorado.

Federal agency will do full emissions inventory, evaluate ozone impacts in permitting process

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Front Range residents will get better information about air quality impacts from gas drilling, as the Bureau of Land Management has agreed to do more studies before permitting additional energy development. The studies will include a full inventory of emissions anticipated during the next 20 years.

The agreement came as part of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians.

“This is a great news for clean air along the Front Range and beyond, which is increasingly at risk because of ramped up drilling and fracking,” said WildEarth Guardians climate and energy program director Jeremy Nichols. “The BLM has basically agreed to look before it leaps, which is a common sense approach to keeping people in Colorado safe from air pollution.” Continue reading

EPA faces lawsuit over national parks air pollution

Environmental groups said they will sue the EPA to clean up air pollution over national parks across the country.

Agency has missed numerous deadlines for reducing haze

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Frustrated by the EPA’s lack of action on cleaning up air quality in national parks, a coalition of environmental groups this week said they would sue the agency to reduce unhealthy over federally managed lands with strict air quality standards. The EPA has missed more than 50 regulatory deadlines by failing to finalize a single state’s haze reduction plan.

“Every year, millions of visitors to our national parks and wilderness areas are unable to see the postcard views because they have been obscured by haze pollution,” said National Parks Conservation Association clean air counsel Stephanie Kodish. “More than 30 years ago Congress committed to restore clean, clear air to America’s most prized national parks and wilderness areas. But EPA has repeatedly escaped its duty to regulate polluters by missing deadlines to develop and implement meaningful plans to reduce air pollution that makes people sick and skies look more like muddy water than the crystal-clear views they once were.” Continue reading

Colorado prairie dog pow-wow in Poncha Springs

A Utah prairie dog. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

Judge orders feds to revisit a non-listing decision for Gunnison’s prairie dogs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Central Colorado residents will get an update on a locally based prairie dog management plan in Poncha Springs in early December, as the Colorado Division of Wildlife address Gunnison’s prairie dog management actions and conservation strategies for portions of Chaffee, Teller, Fremont, El Paso, Park, Custer, Huerfano and western Las Animas counties.

The meeting will take place from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Dec. 2, 2010, at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.

“The Division of Wildlife has been inventorying Gunnison’s prairie dog colonies and establishing local management plans for more than a year now,” said CDOW biologist Ed Schmal. “This meeting is an opportunity for interested parties to get an update and provide input.”Attendees will be briefed on Gunnison’s prairie dog occupancy modeling, genetics research, local mapping efforts and plague research and prevention, he explained. Continue reading

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