Category: forests

GOP launches new assault on public lands

Proposed bill would cut environmental reviews for massive clear cut logging and block access to environmental justice

Proposed legislation introduced by Republicans in Congress would open the door to widespread clearcutting without environmental reviews and black conservation advocates from seeking environmental justice in federal courts. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Once again, Republican lawmakers in Congress are trying to roll back long-standing forest protections on a piecemeal basis, knowing that the public would never stand for a frontal assault on fundamental public lands environmental regulations.

The difference now is that they have an ally in the White House willing sign such measures, which makes resistance in the legislature even more critical. In the latest effort, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) reintroduced a measure that would allow logging projects on up to 30,000 acres — more than 46 square miles — of public land to proceed without meaningful public input, regardless of the environmental harms they might cause. Continue reading “GOP launches new assault on public lands”

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Federal judge nixes Wolf Creek development scheme

Forest Service violated federal law with land swap approval

A map included in a feasibility analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

By Bob Berwyn

*Read previous Summit Voice coverage here

A federal court judge has put an end to a 30-year battle over a proposed resort development at Wolf Creek Pass.

Ruling that the U.S. Forest Service violated federal law when it made an arbitrary and capricious decision to approve a land exchange near Wolf Creek Ski Area, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch set aside the agency’s 2015 approval for a land trade that would have enabled large-scale resort development., The decisions says the Forest Service failed to look closely at the environmental impacts of its decision, and failed to listen to the public before making its decision. Continue reading “Federal judge nixes Wolf Creek development scheme”

Sunday set: Global change

Travel a little, learn a lot

This set includes illustrations for some of my most recent stories in various environmental and climate news publications and if you’re a regular Summit Voice reader who is not on Twitter or Instagram, I’m providing a few links here.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how some of Greenlands coastal glaciers already passed passed a climate change tipping point about 20 years ago. Because of the physical processes of snowmelt and runoff, these glaciers are going to disappear even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero immediately. You can read the story here.

For Pacific Standard, I put together an environmental photo essay on bumblebees, some of the most important pollinators of wildflowers, especially in mountain regions and also in the far north. Bumblebees are important because they are cold-tolerant, so they’re out and about visiting early blooms while other pollinators are dormant. They’ll also fly long distances to visit a single flower. Without them, some species would go extinct. Check out the photo essay here.

You might have seen the recent Summit Voice story on beach erosion and how it’s going to wash away some world famous surf spots along the California coast, and in other areas where coastal strands are ringed by mountains, but if you missed it, you can see it here.

I also wrote about the annual Austrian glacier report for Deutsche Welle, a great global news organization that really does in-depth environmental and climate reporting. You can visit the DW website here, or follow them on Twitter for a daily feed. And my story on the dwindling glaciers is here.

Finally, in a critical story for Colorado and the rest of the West, I reported on how we are losing the war on wildfires and how we need to change our way of thinking about forests and fires in an era of rapid climate change. The story is online at Pacific Standard.

Sunday set: Forests

Trees are our friends

Last week the UN celebrated the International Day of Forests as a way to acknowledge how important forests are to the world. To cynics, it may seem trite lip service by faceless bureaucrats. But in reality, it’s critical that everyone understands how important forests are for the planet. They cover about a  third of the Earth’s land mass and provide livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter for about 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80 percent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. They may also be one of our last, best hopes for slowing climate change. Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at the rate of about 32 million acres per year, equivalent to 10-20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. Check out my article and photo essay for Pacific Standard to learn more about forests, especially for ways you can get involved in helping to protect and restore them.

Global warming hampers post-fire forest regrowth in Colorado

‘We are seeing the initiation of a retreat of forests to higher elevations’

A June, 2011 wildfire in Keystone Gulch burned within a few hundred feet of vacation homes and full-time residences at the Colorado resort.
A June, 2011 wildfire in Keystone Gulch burned within a few hundred feet of vacation homes and full-time residences at the Colorado resort. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Global warming is likely one of the main factors that’s preventing some Colorado forests from regenerating after wildfires.

When they started studying eight wildfire sites that burned across 162,000 acres of low-elevation forests along the Front Range, University of Colorado Boulder researchers said they expected to see young trees popping up all over the place, but that’s not what they found.

There were no seedlings at all in 59 percent of the study plots and 83 percent showed a very low density of seedlings. Future warming and associated drought may hinder significant further recovery, the researchers concluded. Only 2 to 38 percent of plots surveyed, depending on the fire site, were considered stocked, or on their way to recovery. Continue reading “Global warming hampers post-fire forest regrowth in Colorado”

Spruce beetles still on the march in Colorado

Global warming taking a toll on forests worldwide

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Aerial surveys help track the health of Colorado forests. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

Spruce beetles continued to expand in Colorado in 2016, at least in part due to global warming and drought, as well as the density of old-growth spruce forests.

In all, spruce beetles were active across 350,000 acres of higher-elevation stands of Engelmann spruce statewide, including about 136,000 acres of new activity, causing widespread tree mortality, according to the results of the latest aerial surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service. Since 1996, spruce beetle outbreaks have caused tree mortality on more than 1.7 million acres in Colorado. Continue reading “Spruce beetles still on the march in Colorado”

Sunday set: Euro-shrooms

Fantastic fungi

One of the coolest things about mushrooms is that many species are true globalists, which means they grow in many different countries, on many different continents, wherever habitat and moisture are present in the right combination. The fungi in this set were all photographed in the forests of Austria this summer, but all these varieties — either the exact same species or close relatives, — also grow in North America. Check the Summit Voice mushroom archives for more fungi photography, as well as some of the latest stories on mushroom ecology. We’re starting to learn that the delicate relationship between fungi, forests, plants and soil has a huge influence on the global carbon cycle.