Forest Service

Marci Krivonen

The White River National Forest’s newest visitors center officially opens Tuesday. The Forest Service moved the center from Aspen to Highlands to make visits more convenient for the public, and to save money. 

On Friday visitor information specialist Mateo Sandete was putting finishing touches on interpretive signs. Visitors trickled in over Memorial Day weekend for a soft opening. Sandete says the new location is advantageous given the nearby Maroon Bells.

fs.usda.gov

The Garfield County Commissioners are questioning the science behind a handful of reports about the greater sage grouse. The Bureau of Land Management is using the data in a document that will guide management of the bird’s habitat in northwestern Colorado. 

White River National Forest

The head of the White River National Forest says the agency is doing more with less as it continues to battle budget cuts from Washington D.C. 

Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told elected officials, conservation groups and business leaders Friday that the White River is grappling with tight funding. During a “state of the forest” address he said the budget is almost half of what it was five years ago, and staffing levels are down.

He says nearly all of the agency’s budget is being used to fund fixed costs, like salaries and rents, leaving little for side projects.

High Country News

The changes the White River National Forest is considering to minimize crowds in wilderness areas have been successful in other forests. Last week, Forest Service officials began an informal outreach effort around how to bring back solitude to busy trails and backcountry camping. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, their ideas have been tried in other wilderness areas.

Aspen Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer is delivering a presentation to a packed house in Aspen. She’s working to educate people about problems in the forest and solicit feedback.

West Slope Back On Drought Index

In the dry month of January, snowpack levels in nearly every river basin in Colorado declined. In the Roaring Fork Valley, not only did the amount of snow diminish but drought conditions returned. 

The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday puts the Western Slope in the “abnormally dry” category, including the majority of Eagle and Pitkin Counties and all of Garfield County. “Abnormally dry” is the least severe of five categories.

Marci Krivonen

The Forest Service is beginning the discussion about how to deal with increasing problems with crowds in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness. This summer saw huge numbers of visitors at popular spots like Crater Lake and the Four Pass Loop. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, forest service officials are working to educate the public before exploring solutions.

Rangers in the Aspen Sopris Ranger District released a youtube video in October detailing the problems they saw this summer.

savethethompsondivide.org

Natural Gas drilling in an area near Carbondale known as the Thompson Divide is still a possibility, despite protest from many local residents. The group trying to stop it is hopeful a Forest Service plan, due out later this summer, will prevent future drilling.

“Have you heard about the moose?”

Jul 11, 2014
wikipedia

Moose are showing up this summer at one of Aspen’s most popular destinations; the Maroon Bells.  Already there have been reports of moose charging hikers and the Forest Service closed the trails there for a day this week. The trails have reopened but rangers are warning visitors to be aware of the potential danger.  As Aspen Public Radio’s Dorothy Atkins explains they are also considering other options.

High Country News/hcn.org

White River National Forest officials are concerned about overuse at Conundrum Hot Springs, outside Aspen. Forest Service staffers recently pulled more than 35 pounds of trash from the popular recreation area and the number of visitors continues to grow.

Visitors hike from Aspen and Crested Butte to reach the hot springs in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. The area sees more than 3000 people each summer. Martha Moran with the Forest Service says the numbers are impacting the area’s Wilderness character.

KSUT.org

The story of wildfire in the west is increasingly bleak. Fires are bigger, the wildfire season’s longer, and homes are increasingly built on lands at risk to fire. That’s the situation surrounding a wildfire conference in Glenwood Springs this week. Firefighters, elected officials and government workers met to try and find solutions. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, one idea is to expand biomass production.

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