Tag: public lands

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”

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Somebody is trying to take away your public lands

Congress once again toys with extremist agenda

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GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate continue to pursue extremist anti-public lands legislation. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Congress may not be able to get it together to deal with issues like crumbling infrastructure or deadly opiate epidemics, but when it comes to trying to strip Americans of their unique public lands heritage, there’s no shortage of legislation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is warming there are four bills pending in the House and Senate natural resource committees that could affect public lands — and not in a good way. One of the measures would block the creation of new national monuments and parks, while others could enable the transfer of federally managed public lands to state governments. Continue reading “Somebody is trying to take away your public lands”

Court deal a win for fee-free public lands access in SoCal

Public lands access activists make progress in fight against recreation fees. @bberwyn photo.
Public lands access activists make progress in fight against recreation fees. @bberwyn photo.

Settlement addresses pesky Adventure Pass fees on 4 Southern California national forests

Staff Report

A long-running and stubborn battle by activists against the spread of public lands access fees has paid off once again in Southern California, where the U.S. Forest Service agreed to designate and mark free parking areas for hikers who aren’t using developed facilities.

The court-sanctioned deal stems from yet another legal battle over federal recreation fees. Public land agencies started charging for access to plug alleged budget holes; public lands advocates have been trying to limit the spread of the fees and make sure they’ve only levied in the places specifically authorized by Congress — namely at developed recreation sites, and not just for general hiking access. Continue reading “Court deal a win for fee-free public lands access in SoCal”

U.S. wildfire season on pace to break last year’s record

Colorado forest fire
Climate change has increased the risk of dangerous forest fires across the West. @bberwyn photo.

Global warming a key factor in surge of giant forest blazes

By Bob Berwyn

With about 1.5 million acres already scarred by wildfires across the U.S. this year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is warning of a long, hot fire season ahead. Following a meeting with regional Forest Service leaders, Vilsack, along with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, said that federal budgets are not keeping pace with the steep increase in fires.

Vilsack said 2015 was the most expensive fire season in the department’s history, costing more than $2.6 billion on fire alone.

“The 2016 wildfire season is off to a worrisome start. Southern California, the Great Basin in Nevada, portions of the southwest, and even Florida and Hawaii are particularly vulnerable this year,” Vilsack said. The sustained California drought killed more than 40 million trees, which are all potential fuel, and projections for hot summer weather, driven by global warming and a massive El Niño hangover, will likely increase the danger even more, he added. Continue reading “U.S. wildfire season on pace to break last year’s record”

Study eyes climate threat to Crater Lake

Warming temps could affect clarity, quality of famed Oregon lake

crater lake climate change
A new study shows how global warming may affect Crater Lake. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Unique climatic conditions that combine to make Oregon’s Crater Lake one of the clearest bodies of freshwater in the world are expected to become more rare as the Earth gets warmer. The changes could impair the lake’s clarity and health, scientists said in a new study published in early May by the U.S. Geological Survey. Continue reading “Study eyes climate threat to Crater Lake”

Activists slow fracking juggernaut in western Colorado

State BLM officials call for new studies on Mesa County project

fracking rig in Colorado
A fracking rig in Garfield County, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Conservation groups and community advocates in western Colorado have slowed the fracking juggernaut at least temporarily, as federal land managers last week decided to redo an environmental study for a controversial plan to drill 108 new wells on 52,000 acres near the Grand Mesa. Under the proposed master development plan, the wells could produce up to 8.7 million barrels of oil over the next 20 years.

The agency said it made the decision based on the fact that the environmental study for the fossil fuel development project didn’t include any analysis of hydraulic fracturing, likely because of some behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the developers and Bureau of Land Management officials. But when the Western Colorado Congress and the Western Environmental Law Center challenged the plan, state BLM officials reversed course. Continue reading “Activists slow fracking juggernaut in western Colorado”

Activists seek humane treatment for livestock stranded in desert by outlaw rancher Cliven Bundy

Cattle grazing continues to degrade vast tracts of public lands in the West. PHOTO COURTESY BLM.
Activists shine spotlight on abandoned livestock in Nevada desert. Photo courtesy BLM.

Activists launch online petition launched to spur action

Staff Report

Feral cattle that may be descended from livestock owned by outlaw rancher Cliven Bundy is roaming the Nevada desert, and activists say the cows deserve humane treatment. To that end, they’ve launched an online petition to focus national attention on the fate of the cattle.

The petition claims the cows are descendants of cattle owned by Cliven Bundy, who lost his grazing privileges in the early 1990s yet continued to graze in defiance of federal regulations, laws and court orders for decades, leading to the infamous Bundy Ranch standoff, when federal agents backed away from a confrontation with the outlaw over his failure to pay grazing fees. Continue reading “Activists seek humane treatment for livestock stranded in desert by outlaw rancher Cliven Bundy”