Aspen Public Radio's Environmental Desk

“It’s about time we begin it, to turn the world around.
It’s about time we start to make it, the dream we’ve always known.
It’s about time we start to live it, the family of man.
It’s about time, it’s about changes and it’s about time.”

– John Denver, “It’s About Time"

"Major support for Aspen Public Radio's Environmental Desk reporting comes from John Denver's Aspenglow Fund, promoting responsible stewardship of the lands and wilderness of Aspen & the Roaring Fork Valley.”

United States Forest Service

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the challenges facing wild places today are different than they were in 1964. Some say it’s increasingly difficult to keep these areas wild and to get protection for new wilderness. The White River National Forest manages eight wilderness areas, including the popular Maroon Bells/Snowmass region near Aspen. In part two of our series, Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen examines the challenges facing the wilderness in our backyard.

Meredith Ogilby/Wilderness Workshop

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and, in special series, we're focusing on one protected area in our backyard, the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

It took the work of three tireless women to expand protection in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen. In 1964, just the high mountain peaks became wilderness. So, the women, called the “Maroon Belles,” worked to more than double the size of the preserved area. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen tells their story.

Roger Adams

The word “fracking” has come to mean drilling in general for oil and gas-- and a major concern for communities and environmentalists in Colorado and elsewhere.In reality the process of hydraulic fracturing is a specialized procedure used to create cracks in shale deposits thousands of feet underground which in turn releases trapped natural gas.  There are hundreds of fracked wells in Garfield County. Often you can see them from the highway.  Recently Aspen Public Radio got a tour of a fracking operation run by WPX Energy near Parachute.  Hear the story by APR's Elise Thatcher below.  See a slideshow of photographs of the rig by APR's Roger Adams HERE.

Elise Thatcher

There’s a small army of citizen scientists just over the mountains from Carbondale. Residents in the Paonia area are donning special backpacks for twenty-four hours at a time, to collect real time data for scientific study of air pollution.  The aim is to measure what might be getting into the air from nearby oil and gas wells.

Editor's note: Below is a transcript of reporter Elise Thatcher's story. 

Alison Gannett: “Bluebell!”

US Fish and Wildlife Service

The Greater Sage Grouse is in trouble. The bird looks like a large chicken and has an elaborate mating dance… and it's habitat across the West has been under siege for several decades. There’s been big effort to help the bird. Now, Garfield County officials are watching closely as the federal government decides how closely to protect a big chunk of its Colorado habitat. There’s disagreement about how to do that... and huge restrictions on private and public land are at stake if officials get it wrong. The BLM is taking comments on its habitat plan for the Greater Sage Grouse.

Marci Krivonen

In the future, the forests surrounding Aspen will look different. Already, mountain shrubs are replacing some Aspen stands and changing the complexion of the area.   This is likely due to due a warming climate.

Marci Krivonen

This Fall, a local river conservation group is keeping a close eye on the Fryingpan River. This follows last year's drought that brought the levels on the river down. The low flows affected fish, aquatic insects and possibly the local economy. The Fryingpan is considered Gold Medal fishing waters. It draws people from around the world to fly fish there. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.