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Rich Holland, fishing and hunting content director for SmartEtailing.com holds up a nice Elevenmile Reservoir cutthroat trout. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Urgent Action Needed to Protect America’s Outdoor Heritage

America’s coldwater fish habitat could decline by 50 percent within the lifetime of a child born today thanks to climate change, according to a new report released today by the National Wildlife Federation. Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World details how climate change is warming lakes, rivers and streams and making existing stresses worse, creating an uncertain future for America’s freshwater fishing traditions and the jobs that depend on them.

“More extreme heat and drought are already causing big problems for fish that rely on cold, clean water – and the warming we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Doug Inkley, National Wildlife Federation senior scientist and one of the lead authors of Swimming Upstream. “We can protect America’s outdoor heritage, but only if we act now to cut industrial carbon pollution, invest in clean energy, and make communities and habitats more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

Climate change is warming our lakes, rivers and streams causing:

· Habitat loss for many cold-water species

· Exacerbation of existing stressors, such as habitat loss, polluted water, invasive species and
disease

· Increased competition from warm-water species

“Temperature increases of even a few degrees can have dramatic impacts, harming iconic game fish like salmon, trout and walleye and giving a leg up to destructive invaders like sea lamprey,” said Jack Williams, Trout Unlimited senior scientist and one of the lead authors of Swimming Upstream. “We need to manage our water resources in a way that ensures that both people and fish have the clean, cool, and abundant water they need to survive.”

Climate change is affecting seasonal patterns and loading the dice for extreme weather:

· Warmer, shorter winters with less snow and ice cover can shift stream flows and water
availability in the spring and summer. Reduced ice cover also means many lakes are too thin
for safe ice fishing, a popular recreation in many northern locales.

· More extreme weather events —especially more intense droughts, heat waves and wildfires
— can increase fish mortality.

· More frequent droughts reduce stream flows and kill streamside vegetation which helps to cool streams. Less water during droughts reduces available habitat and the remaining water warms faster, leaving fewer cool or cold-water refuges for fish.

“Here in North Carolina, fishing is a critical economic driver. More than a million anglers spent over $574 million on freshwater fishing in 2011,” said Kelly Darden, North Carolina Wildlife Federation board member. “For North Carolina sportsmen, it’s not about politics. It’s about a simple question: What’s your plan to confront climate change and protect our outdoor heritage?”

Swimming Upstream outlines actions needed to address climate change and ensure a thriving fishing tradition. To confront the climate crisis’ threats to fish, wildlife and communities we must:

· Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030.
· Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and
next-generation biofuels while avoiding dirty energy choices like coal and tar sands oil.
· Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.
· Help communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change such as rising
sea levels, more extreme weather, and more severe droughts.

“Sportsmen are on the front lines of conservation. They’re already seeing changes where they fish and they know we can’t leave this problem for our children and grandchildren to deal with,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We need action on the local, state and federal levels to cut industrial carbon pollution, invest in clean energy, and make communities and habitats more resilient to the impacts of climate change. President Obama’s plan to act on climate is a major step in the right direction.”

Read the report at NWF.org/FishAndClimate.

More of NWF’s reports connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather are available at NWF.org/ExtremeWeather. Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.

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The West is filled with iconic landscapes, most of them public. With rod in hand, shotgun or rifle shouldered, most of us have experienced the bounty public lands provide. And from our earliest days in the field when any body of water or forest held unseen potential, to our current, often thoughtfully planned excursions, public lands have always been there to provide opportunity.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights the value of public lands for hunters and anglers.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights the value of public lands for hunters and anglers.

For many, the true American dream is pursuing North America’s trophy big game on the West’s vast open spaces. It’s the epitome of DIY – a complete hunting or fishing trip in the West – and also a testament to our sporting nature. It’s all there: the planning, the practice, the pursuit, the stalk, the shot and the harvest.

This sporting heritage is hard to quantify on a personal level. The value of days spent afield alone or with great friends and family, transcends material possessions. The value of public lands, however, can be quantified. The National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) new report, Valuing Our Western Public Lands: Safeguarding Our Economy and Way of Life, illustrates the value and scope of our western lands and sends a clear message that these lands define the American landscape and our national identity.

The bulk of the vast open spaces are in the West, where they have generated jobs and revenue from commodity production, tourism and recreation, including hunting and fishing. As the western economy changes from one dominated by natural resource production to one distinguished by knowledge- and service-based industries, conserving public lands becomes increasingly important as a magnet for businesses and employees seeking a high quality of life.

The NWF report can be found at: http://www.ourpubliclands.org/sites/default/files/files/NWF_PublicLands.pdf

This fat brown trout was caught on public lands on the South Platte, which the author has fished since childhood. Photo by Matt Vincent

This fat brown trout was caught on public lands on the South Platte, which the author has fished since childhood. Photo by Matt Vincent

Several recent studies and surveys within the report found that:

• Many communities near public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher levels of economic, population and income growth and higher property values.

• The outdoor recreation industry, including fishing and hunting, contributes nearly $650 billion to the U.S. economy and supports more than 6 million jobs. Western public lands provide recreation for people from across the country and world.

• Americans invest nearly $39 billion annually in natural resource conservation, resulting in more than $93 billion in direct economic benefits.

• Extractive, commodity-based industries generate needed materials and energy and provide jobs and revenue, but have been cyclical and have become a smaller part of the overall economy.

“Public Lands are not just where I recreate; they are also where I get my food,” said Armond Acri, a retired chemical engineer who hunts big game and waterfowl. ” I hunt on National Forest, BLM lands, State and Federal Wildlife Refuges, and State Lands.  Each year I hunt grouse, ducks, geese, deer, elk and perhaps antelope.  In a few special years I have had the privilege to hunt bison and bighorn sheep.  Public Land helps me feed both my body and my soul.  I cannot put a price on Public Land, but I know it is one of my most valued possessions.  That is why I fight to preserve the Public Lands we all own.”

Intact habitat and unspoiled backcountry are essential to maintaining fish and wildlife habitat. Proposals to dispose or devalue

Energy development on public lands can eliminate wildlife's ability to migrate from summer to winter habitat as well as adjust to the growing effects of climate change.

Energy development on public lands can eliminate wildlife’s ability to migrate from summer to winter habitat as well as adjust to the growing effects of climate change.

the land threaten a crucial part of our economy. These proposals threaten the fundamental value of ensuring that lands belonging to all Americans stay open to everyone, now and in the future.

Through the NWF report a picture of the changing West emerges. Studies show that many communities near public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher employment, growth and income levels and higher property values. The service industries, which include health, finance and legal jobs, have diversified the economy and sustain communities when commodity-based industries experience downturns.

Industries traditionally associated with the West – logging, mining, oil and gas drilling – are still important and provide needed materials, but are often cyclical and have become a smaller part of the overall economy.

Former WON staffer Rich Holland is Fishing and Hunting Content Director for SmartEtailing.com, which offers web hosting and online commerce tools to 15,000 independent retailers affiliated with Big Rock Sports. His business, and countless others, lie at the heart of the public lands economy. But again, the value runs deeper than business.

“In the 1940s, my father was in his early teens when his family moved to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” said Holland. “He and his brother immediately discovered the great fishing and hunting available on public lands. That love of the outdoors was passed along to me and I still fish and hunt in many of the same places he frequented as a young man.

“On the other hand, quite a few of his favorite spots have been lost to encroaching development and government designations that prohibit the traditional activities of sportsmen,” he added. “Many of the retailers we work with are located adjacent to public lands, and not just in the West but along the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and the vast watershed of the Gulf Coast. These businesses rely on continued access to public lands for families who wish to fish and hunt.”

By conserving the cherished lands that drive economic growth, the American people and our national economy will be healthier

Pronghorn on western public lands need large landscapes for their long migration corridors to thrive. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Pronghorn on western public lands need large landscapes for their long migration corridors to thrive. Photo by Lew Carpenter

and more sustainable for generations to come.

So what does it all mean in today’s world? The report was created to bring the importance of public lands into the national dialogue. Several Western legislatures and members of Congress have shown they are out of touch with the public’s support for keeping public lands in public hands.

The last two congressional sessions, lawmakers introduced dozens of bills seeking to diminish protection of public land, require the federal government to sell millions of acres of the land or turn the land over to the states. State legislators and congressional members behind proposals to dispose of public lands claim that westerners believe federal management of the lands constrains natural resource development, thus depriving states of the economic benefits. In fact, the measures contradict the majority of western public opinion and threaten the region’s economy, which benefits from the diverse businesses attracted and supported by conserving public lands.

The next generation of anglers and hunters are relying on today’s sportsmen to conserve fish and wildlife habitat so they have the same opportunities to recreate on public lands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

The next generation of anglers and hunters are relying on today’s sportsmen to conserve fish and wildlife habitat so they have the same opportunities to recreate on public lands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

As a sportsman from the West I have fished from Alaska to the Gulf Coast, Baja to Idaho – and many places in between – almost exclusively on public lands. Certainly there is a place for the magnificent private-land opportunities in North America – but for the common man, nothing beats the landscapes his forefathers created, paid for with his tax dollars, equipment purchases and license fees, and which is waiting with open arms for him to conserve for his children and the generations to follow.

If you care about this American heritage, your access to public lands and wildlife, and your ability to share this with your children and grandchildren, then you need to inform yourself about the positions your elected officials are taking on public lands issues. Moreover, you need to communicate your positions to your elected officials. This is the essence of representative democracy and it is more important than ever in a time when big money is exerting enormous influence.

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Jake Haefeli with his first mule deer ever. It was taken in the White River area. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Seven prominent groups unite to advocate for backcountry lands
as BLM finalizes management plan administering 1.5 million acres

WASHINGTON – Seven prominent hunting and fishing organizations are speaking out in support of the responsible management of some of the most valuable fish and wildlife habitat in the Rocky Mountain West.

Via advertisements in nine Colorado newspapers, the sportsmen’s groups are urging the Bureau of Land Management to conserve backcountry lands that comprise some of northwest Colorado’s most outstanding public lands hunting and angling. The agency currently is finalizing the White River Resource Management Plan, which will administer 1.5 million acres of federal lands.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Colorado Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and Western Native Trout Initiative are reaching out together to the BLM.

“Please respect the values of sportsmen by balancing energy development with the protection of our backcountry sporting opportunities and abundant fish and wildlife populations in the White River Resource Management Plan,” the groups state.

The areas in question encompass valuable fish and wildlife habitat. Known as the nation’s “mule deer factory,” northwest Colorado also is home to the largest migratory elk herd in North America and irreplaceable native trout fisheries.

Sporting groups in partnership with local sportsmen and businesses dependent on hunting and angling are requesting that the BLM implement a special land-management classification in an effort to conserve the unique wildlife, recreation, and economic values of the region. Called “backcountry conservation areas,” this management category would conserve specific intact and undeveloped public lands that produce robust game populations and provide high quality hunting and fishing opportunities.

The White River Resource Management Plan Amendment under consideration will guide the BLM’s management of the region’s landscape for the foreseeable future. The White River area offers world-class hunting and angling opportunities as well as abundant mineral resources. An estimated 13,000 wells will be drilled in the area in the next 20 years. Sportsmen are requesting a balanced, conservation-minded approach to this development.

Many sportsmen also support the creation of a master leasing plan in the White River area, which would guide development using a landscape-level management approach.

The sportsmen’s ads will be featured in the Rio Blanco Herald Times on Thursday and in the Denver Post and Craig, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Boulder, Loveland, Longmont and Canon City papers on Saturday.

Sportsmen speak directly to the need for responsive backcountry management in northwestern Colorado:

“Sportsmen across the state are depending on the BLM to safeguard our backcountry hunting and fishing grounds and the high quality habitat found on the Western Slope,” said Nick Payne, TRCP Colorado field representative. “To that end, the BLM should implement ‘backcountry conservation areas’ to help maintain the area’s world class public land hunting opportunities.”

“Hunting is a way of life in western Colorado, a tradition that my family has cherished for generations,” said Gabe Lucero, owner of Red Rock Archery in Grand Junction. “As an owner of an archery shop, I also depend on northwest Colorado’s quality hunting to pay the bills year after year. The BLM must ensure that sportsmen still have the opportunity for quality public land hunting indefinitely.”

“The deer, elk and pronghorn herds in northwest Colorado provide hunters a variety of hunting experiences,” said John Ellenberger, a retired wildlife biologist with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. “Some areas provide the opportunity for a backcountry hunting experience while others provide the opportunity to bag trophy-size animals. In rare instances, some areas supporting these herds provide the opportunity to do both. As both a hunter and a retired wildlife biologist for the Division of Wildlife, I am intimately familiar with these herds and their habitats. I hope the BLM recognizes what needs to be done to preserve these herds for future generations of Coloradoans.”

“Sportsmen understand the need for quality, undeveloped backcountry habitat, just as we understand the need for responsible energy development. There’s no good reason why we can’t have both,” said Tim Brass with the Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

“In northwest Colorado, native cutthroat populations are under pressure, and safeguarding riparian zones and drainages from development is critical for native trout survival and restoration,” said Robin Knox, coordinator for the Western Native Trout Initiative.

“Retreating to the hunting grounds of the Western Slope’s backcountry is a cherished autumn ritual for many of us in Colorado. Conserving these areas is essential to ensuring this tradition will be enjoyed by the next generation,” said Gaspar Perricone, director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Balancing the energy needs of our state with the unique wildlife value of the region is an attainable goal, and the BLM’s resource management plan should reflect the values of each.”

“The White River Basin offers some of the finest sporting opportunities in our country so sportsmen know we need to do our part to ensure that it stays that way,” said Aaron Kindle, Colorado field coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project.

“This region epitomizes the image hunters and anglers conjure when dreaming of trophy big game and wild trout, and we encourage the BLM to keep the dream alive for future generations by protecting our access and opportunity,” said John Gale, regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation. “Backcountry conservation areas would help safeguard both.”

Learn more about backcountry conservation areas and how they can sustain fish and wildlife habitat valued by sportsmen.

View the sportsmen’s advertisement here.

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Updated federal fracking rule: An opportunity for transparency, stewardship and responsible energy development on our public lands

 

WASHINGTONAs the Interior Department prepares to release new federal fracking regulations, a sportsmen’s coalition is urging officials to make sure the rules will adequately protect air and water quality, fish and wildlife.

 

The update to oil and gas drilling methods on federal and tribal lands is the first in about 30 years, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development noted Tuesday. Meanwhile, the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has significantly changed, opening previously inaccessible land to development.

 

“The reality is the technology and methods have changed since the original rule was put in place. Today, millions of gallons of fluids and chemicals are injected underground at high pressure,’’ said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “We know there are a lot of good companies doing the right thing. But it’s critical to have safeguards in place. We can’t run the risk of contaminating groundwater or surface water and endangering people, fish and wildlife.”

 

The National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are the lead partners in the SFRED coalition. SFRED supports requiring companies to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluids both before and after drilling so that appropriate steps can be taken to safeguard natural resources.

 

Hunters and anglers urge the Interior Department to retain provisions in an earlier draft of the rules that address well-casing integrity and fracking fluid waste. The fluids must be properly contained and water quality must be monitored, coalition members said.

 

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee plans a hearing Wednesday on the federal fracking rule. Hunters and anglers encourage committee members to implement federal oil and gas regulations that match the industry’s 21st century technology.

 

SFRED members also stressed that the Bureau of Land Management must not abdicate its responsibility for managing federal lands to the states as some in Congress have suggested.

 

“A responsible Federal policy is needed to set a baseline that all States must meet on Federal lands,’’ SFRED said in written testimony submitted to the Natural Resources Committee.

 

“The committee’s hearing notice calls a new federal rule a recipe for ‘waste, duplication and delay,’ and we respectfully disagree,’’ said Lew Carpenter, the National Wildlife Federation’s regional representative. “Lawmakers need to remember that the public lands they’re discussing belong to all Americans who cherish them for the fishing, hunting and recreation they provide.’’

 

SFRED understands that energy is vital to our economy and way of life and that decreasing our reliance on foreign sources is important.

 

“At the same time, federal lands are a public trust, managed for multiple uses. Economies across the West rely on the tourism and recreation public lands sustain,’’ said Ed Arnett,  director of energy programs for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These public lands provide a lifestyle that draws people and businesses to the area. They’re a priceless legacy and a treasure we hope to leave to future generations.’’

 

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Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

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Mark Fisher works the wall at the Big Hole on the South Platte River in Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

The number of anglers who had to cancel a fishing trip or stop fishing a particular location last year because they lost access to a favorite fishing spot overall has not changed compared to last year. 17 percent of recreational fisherman surveyed by AnglerSurvey.com reported issues with access as opposed to 20 percent a year earlier. Despite this minor improvement, roughly one in five anglers is still being affected each year by not being able to use a favorite fishing location.

Likewise, because more anglers fish freshwater than saltwater, as well as the fact that there is more private land surrounding lakes and streams, 71 percent of reported access problems involved freshwater anglers and 24 percent involved saltwater in 2012.

Despite these challenges, 22 percent of affected anglers said they actually fished more last year than the previous year, just in a different location, and at least 32 percent reported fishing at least as much. Still, 39 percent reported fishing less frequently due to their lost access and seven percent didn’t fish at all.

“Despite the efforts and resourcefulness of some anglers to find new fishing areas after losing access to others, it is clear that such challenges are causing us to lose anglers each year,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. “Whether it is due to fishery closures, closed ramps or land previously used to access a lake or stream changing hands and becoming closed to the public access remains a persistent issue. Fisheries managers, anglers and industry need to continue working together to resolve these problems.”

To help continually improve, protect and advance angling and other outdoor recreation, all sportsmen and sportswomen are encouraged to participate in the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and/or AnglerSurvey.com. Each month, participants who complete the survey are entered into a drawing for one of five $100 gift certificates to the sporting goods retailer of their choice.

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THREE PARKS, LOTS OF ACTIVITIES

Cheyenne Mountain State Park Earth Day Weekend Events – Saturday, April 20

You don’t have to go far to get away in Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Just minutes from downtown Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain State Park has an amazing diversity with prairie-to-peak ecosystems and 20 miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the 1,680 acres to explore.

Earth Day is Monday, April 22, but the staff and volunteers at the park have arranged some “pre-Earth Day” events.

Highway 115 Cleanup Project, 8 to 11 a.m., Saturday, April 20 at the Visitor Center parking lot.
Join park volunteers for a cleanup project along State Highway 115 from the park entrance to Pine Oaks Road. Minimum age is 10 years. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Bring gloves, water, hat, and sturdy shoes. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is not required.

Un-natural Trail Hike, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 20 at the Visitor Center.
On this naturalist-guided hike, test your powers of observation by looking for things that dont belong in the natural environment. Then, see if you can guess how long it takes for trash items like orange peels, cardboard, plastic bags, and Styrofoam to breakdown after they are discarded. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is required.

Junior Ranger Program – Wildlife Encounters, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 20 at Camper Services.
Program for 7-12 year-olds and parents to learn how park rangers educate visitors about rattlesnakes, bears, and mountain lions. After training, junior rangers will test their knowledge by participating in a simulated wildlife encounter. Pick up a training booklet beforehand at the visitor center or receive one at class time. Junior rangers will receive a badge and patch depending on levels completed. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is required.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is located at 410 JL Ranch Heights, 80926. To reach the park, travel south on Colorado Highway 115 and turn west directly across from Gate one at Fort Carson. Programs are free, unless otherwise noted, but all vehicles entering the park must have a $7 daily or a $70 annual State Parks pass. For more information, call 719-576-2016.

Earth Day Festival in Salida – Saturday, April 20

Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas River near Salida. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas River near Salida. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Earth Day is just around the corner and on the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association and Salida Recreation are hosting an Earth Day Party 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 20 at Riverside Park in downtown Salida.

There will be fun and entertainment for all ages. From 10 a.m. to noon, there will be exhibits and crafts including a geology touch table, animal skins and tracks, face painting, eco games, live alpacas, fire mitigation, tree health, Stay the Trail, a demonstration about water and much more.

At noon, the Pueblo Raptor Centers Diana Miller and her fascinating feathered friends will be at the Scout Hut to educate people about the lives, habits and little known facts of birds of prey.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., electronic recycling will be available for a minimal cost to get rid of all those old computers, TV’s and other stuff that have been cluttering your home.

To close the days events, the Salida Circus will start a parade through downtown Salida at 3 p.m. and will perform at Riverside Park at 4 p.m.

Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a family day of celebration in honor of nature, the Arkansas River Valley and our planet Earth. For more information, contact Rose Bayless at AHRA at 719-539-728; Maggie Murdoch at Salida Recreation at 719-539-5703; or Amanda Harper at GARNA at 719-539-5106.

Earth Day Celebrations at Mueller State Park Sunday, April 21

DIVIDE, Colo. – The staff and volunteers at Mueller State Park will celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, April 21 with guided hikes, children’s activities and chance to learn about volcanoes.

Join volunteer naturalist Nancy Remmler at 10 a.m. in the Visitor Center Parking Lot for an Earth Day hike! Get out and enjoy the mountain-fresh air at Mueller. Enjoy a nice hike for adults and children alike; families welcome. The participants will determine the length and difficulty of the hike.

At 10 a.m., join volunteer naturalist Bob Hickey in the Visitor Center Auditorium for an engaging and eye-opening talk about volcanic rock and the role volcanoes played in the formation of the earth. There will be specimens and examples of the volcanic rocks in the region. There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion and Q & A and participants are encouraged to bring in their favorite rocks to show Bob.

At 11 a.m., volunteer naturalist Rose Banzhaf will host a children’s Earth Day arts and crafts fair. The art and crafts fair is perfect for the whole family; picture frame projects will be made and stories will be read. Afterwards, volunteer naturalist Carole Larkey will lead the children on a guided hike around the nature trail! Bring your Earth Day spirit, craft hands, and sturdy shoes for hiking! Families interested in attending the children’s program should RSVP by April 19 if interested in attending as the celebration is limited to 35 children participants. You may sign up at the Visitor Center, or call Chelsea Murray at 719-687-2366 ext.107 or email chelsea.murray@state.co.us.

At 1 p.m., Bob Hickey will give an encore presentation of his volcanic rocks presentation.

Earth Day programs at Mueller State Park are free, but you must have a $7 daily parks pass or a $70 annual pass on your vehicle to enter the park. Mueller State Park is located 4-miles south of Divide on Highway 67. For weather updates or for more information, call 719-687-2366.

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The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is the legislation that Congress uses to determine policy for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and to decide which water projects will get built.

Getting this bill right is critical for maintaining the health of our nation’s rivers, streams, wetlands and coastlines—and the people, jobs, and wildlife that depend on these resources. Unfortunately, the current WRDA is moving at a speed that precludes public discussion of its provisions. The bill was introduced just 3 weeks ago on a Friday evening, marked up the following Wednesday, and now seems likely to end up before the entire Senate on Wednesday.20130409-074910.jpg

Unfortunately, this version of WRDA contains two provisions (sections 2033 and 2032) that strike at the heart of our nation’s environmental review process. They will obstruct not only reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, but also under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other landmark environmental laws.

These two sections must be removed from the final bill before passage. If passed into law as it is, this bill:

• Will limit scientific analysis and drive bad decisions Environmental review documents are often hundreds of pages long and full of dense scientific language: the accelerated deadlines in this bill will not give members of the public or agencies such as the USFWS or the EPA time to read one of these reviews—let alone to consult experts and perform the analyses necessary to draft informed public comments. Among many other problems, these provisions direct the Corps to fine agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service up to $20,000 a week for missing the arbitrary and accelerated deadlines and will let the Corps send even technical disagreements to the President. To try to avoid these fines and higher level reviews, agencies — already facing restricted budgets — will rush to complete reviews without all the information or performing independent analyses, increasing the likelihood that unnecessarily destructive projects will be approved. Good science takes time, and this legislation simply does not give experts enough time to make informed decisions.

• Will not speed up project construction The review process is not the main cause of delays in federal water projects. Delays are driven by funding constraints, the Corps’ $60–80 billion project backlog, and the Corps’ insistence on planning highly destructive and controversial projects when less damaging approaches are available. These streamlining provisions are being driven by ideology, and will not a make a practicable difference in speeding up construction.

• Will move water planning backwards The bill will allow the corps to continue planning unnecessarily costly and destructive projects instead of using low impact solutions — for example, reconnecting streams with floodplains— which are frequently the most cost-effective way to solve water planning challenges.

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DENVER – The discovery of a spill near a natural gas plant and a creek that flows into the Colorado River “should be a wake-up call’’ for state regulators to finish what was started five years ago – establishing safe setbacks from waterways.

Colorado River 56 miles from Parachute at James M Robb State Park. Photo Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Colorado River 56 miles from Parachute at James M Robb State Park. Photo Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

 

The Colorado Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation noted that riparian buffers for oil and gas wells and infrastructure were one of the issues left on the table when the state overhauled its oil and gas rules in 2008.

 

“We’re all waiting for more details of the spill near Parachute and results from the investigation,  but  whatever the precise facts, this should be a wake-up call for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission,’’ NWF attorney Michael Saul said Tuesday.

 

State and federal agencies are investigating and helping in the cleanup of a leak of thousands of gallons of hydrocarbons in a pipeline right of way adjacent to a gas-processing plant owned by Williams north of Parachute in western Colorado. The underground leak is about 60 feet from the edge of Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River.

 

“This is one more strong argument for keeping oil and gas wells and related infrastructure a safe distance from waterways,’’ said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Regulators pledged to form a stakeholders’ group to develop standards for riparian setbacks a while ago. We’re still waiting.’’

 

Saul and O’Neill said better monitoring of surface and groundwater quality is crucial to protect Colorado drinking waters and fish and wildlife habitat.

 

“This might have been detected sooner with better monitoring. We don’t know how long this has being going on,’’ Saul added.

Last year, a spill from an oil well site reached creeks that eventually flow into the North Platte River in Colorado’s North Park area. News of the spill prompted hunting and angling groups to renew a push for buffers around waterways.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America’s conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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Like many sportsmen across Colorado, I’m heartened that Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) have reached across party lines to re-introduce the Public Lands Renewable Energy Act. This legislation takes a balanced approach to meet America’s energy needs, bolster clean energy technologies, and protect wildlife which sportsmen depend on by reducing future impacts of clean energy facilities.

A wind farm backdrops this Colorado pheasant hunter. Photo by Lew Carpenter.

A wind farm backdrops this Colorado pheasant hunter. Photo by Lew Carpenter.

As an avid angler and hunter, I know how valuable of our public lands are as a resource for recreation, beauty, and fish and game species. That’s why I support S. 279’s more efficient approach to clean energy development. The bill would set aside royalties from renewable projects to support local economies and mitigate impacts on fish and wildlife resources. By contributing thirty-five percent of the royalties collected to a conservation fund, Colorado sportsmen like me and thousands of others can keep enjoying the resources which make our state so special. State and Counties would receive twenty-five percent each.

“We want our public lands to be great places to fish and hunt,” Keith Curley, Director of Government Affairs for Trout Unlimited, “This bill would help ensure that when wind and solar energy development occurs on public lands, there are resources available to protect and restore habitat and secure public access in the affected areas.”

In addition, S.279 would establish a competitive leasing system, mirroring the system already in place for oil and gas industries, and make it more feasible for smart development projects to take place on federal lands. This more efficient process would be particularly beneficial to us here in Colorado, which has a tremendous potential for wind power on millions of acres of public land suitable for such projects. This will allow us to develop necessary new sources of wind and solar power on suitable public lands and at the same time give back a portion of the royalties to those most affected by the projects – the states and counties, as well as wildlife and the sportsmen who have a stake in the future of these public lands.

Senator Tester hit it dead on when he said, “With some of the best renewable energy development sites located on public lands, it’s vital to expand this industry while protecting the natural resources that make the West famous. He frames the bill as, “A common-sense way to create jobs and provide renewable energy the same opportunities as oil and gas while increasing our energy security.”

I want to thank our congressmen from Montana, Idaho, and across the nation for working together to reintroduce The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013. I also am proud to be a part of the extensive network of supports for this bill, which includes the Western Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, conservation groups like The National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, and conservationist and sportsmen across the nation. Tom France, Senior Director of Western Wildlife Conservation of the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountains and Prairies Regional Center called the bill, “A win-win strategy to facilitate needed renewable energy development on suitable public lands.”

I believe we have much to gain for this bill’s directed effort to increase our energy independence, create meaningful jobs, support local and state level economies, and protect our unique wildlife heritage for future generations of Colorado hunters and anglers.

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