Travel: 9 free days at U.S. National Parks in 2014!

Your lands: 84 million acres, 17,000 miles of trails

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Badlands National Park, South Dakota. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — This year, you’ll have nine chances for a fee-free visit to one of America’s 401 national parks, starting as soon as Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 20, 2014). The park service recently announced the 2014 schedule of free days, offering the fee-free visits as a way to encourage visitation.

The 2014 entrance fee-free days are:

Environment: Yosemite National Park planners finalize restoration plan for Mariposa giant sequoia grove

Fire and water crucial to big-tree ecosystem

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Giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park.

FRISCO — With an eye toward an uncertain climate future, national park resource managers are finalizing a restoration plan for the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park.

The stand of about 500 trees was included in the Yosemite Grant that was signed into law on June 30, 1864. This marked the first time the federal government set aside land for protection and is considered to be the genesis of the national park idea. The Mariposa Grove are among the oldest, rarest, and largest living organisms in the world. The trees can live longer than 3,000 years.

About a third of the sequoias in California were cut between the the 1860s and 1950s. Studies suggest that the distribution of the trees is driven by climate, constrained by cold temperatures at upper elevations and limited by the availability of water at low elevations.

In the restoration plan, scientists say restoring natural hydrological and fire cycles is the key to success, since sequoia germination, establishment and persistence are largely driven by fire and hydrology. Continue reading

Illegal pot farmers killing rare wildlife in California

Between 80 and 90 percent of dead fishers in study area found with traces of rodenticides

Marijuana growing on national forest land near Winter Park Ski Area.

A rare fisher. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —While comic book characters like the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers may live up to the stereotype of Earth-loving hippies, the reality of pot-growing on public lands is far uglier.

In a new study, UC Davis researchers found that rat poison deployed by illegal marijuana growers is killing rare forest mammals like the fisher, which makes its home in some of California’s most remote backcountry terrain.

Fishers in California, Oregon and Washington have been declared a candidate species for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“I am really shocked by the number of fishers that have been exposed to significant levels of multiple second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides,” said pathologist Leslie Woods of the UC Davis California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, which conducted the necropsies. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Restoring giant sequoias in Yosemite

The General Sherman giant sequoia, considered to be the world's largest living entity.

National Park Service eyes improved hydrology and better visitor access in plan for Mariposa Grove

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A grove of giant sequoias that’s been growing for 3,000 years in Yosemite National Park may soon be even more peaceful. The National Park Service wants to restore natural streams in the area, remove man-made structures, relocate parking and roads and preserve the soil and vegetation around the ancient giants by re-routing trails in the Mariposa Grove.

For starters, the agency has launched a public scoping period on the plan, which is designed to try and identify broad-brush issues. The scoping started Aug. 31 and runs through Oct. 15. Get all the details on the project on this Yosemite National Park website.

The Mariposa Grove is the largest of the three giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park and was part of the original Yosemite Grant signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 (the rest of the grant included Yosemite Valley). It was the first time in the country’s history that a natural area was set aside for the benefit of future generations.

The giant sequoias are considered to be the largest living thing on the planet. Some are up to 35 feet in diameter and up to 300 feet in height. There are approximately 500 mature sequoia trees in the grove. They are found only on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada in California, growing in a belt only about 15 miles mid and 260 miles long. In all, the groves cover about 35,000 acres. A fact sheet on the Mariposa Grove is online here. Continue reading

New population of rare fox discovered in California

Forest Service biologists in California discover a new population of rare red foxes. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FOREST SERVICE.

Only other known population numbers 20 animals near Lassen Peak, about 120 miles north

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Forest Service biologists on the lookout for elusive fishers and pine martens in the Sierra Nevada of California got more than they bargained for when they checked their motion-activated cameras near the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park last month.

Their snapshots from Aug. 12 showed a Sierra Nevada red fox, a rare species listed as as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. Until last month, the only known population of the species was a group of about 20 animals in the Lassen Peak region, about 120 miles farther north.

Since the sighting, the Forest Service worked with researchers at the University of California, Davis to pinpoint the genetics of the red foxes, determining that it’s distinct from the Lassen Peak population. Continue reading

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