Rep. Polis introduces Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act | SummitDaily.com

Rep. Polis introduces Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act

Alli Langley
alangley@summitdaily.com

Visitors from the Brazilian Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservacao da Biodiversidade and U.S. Forest Service employees pose at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on the White River National Forest.

Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) introduced a bill Thursday, May 21, to preserve 58,000 acres of wilderness and recreation lands in Summit and eastern Eagle counties.

Crafted with input from dozens of stakeholder groups, including The Wilderness Society, Vail Resorts, the Outdoor Industry Association, the International Mountain Biking Association, Conservation Colorado, and affected municipalities and businesses, the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act aims to help sustain recreational resources, protect watersheds, preserve wildfire corridors and strengthen Colorado's tourism economy.

The proposal would create new wilderness areas in the Tenmile Range, Williams Fork Mountains and Hoosier Ridge, as well as expand the existing Eagles Nest and Ptarmigan Peak and Holy Cross Wilderness Areas.

The plan also would enhance outdoor recreation opportunities such as fishing, hunting, biking and backcountry snowsports by creating an 11,500-acre Recreation Management Area within the Tenmile Range. The proposal was drafted through a collaborative process with local stakeholders that not only maintained existing recreational uses but also incorporated community values by accounting for future improvements.

Earlier this month, Polis hosted the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), so he could tour the proposed protection areas and hear from local leaders about the importance of the bill.

With his new seat on the House Natural Resources Committee and Grijalva's support, Polis is optimistic about moving the bill through Congress this session.

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For a map of the proposal, visit http://polis.house.gov/wilderness.

Dillon joins mountain towns supporting coal regulation changes

The town of Dillon recently joined other mountain communities in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico concerned about the impacts of climate change when it expressed formal support for changes to the federal coal-leasing program.

A letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewel signed by the communities emphasizes that the costs of adapting to climate change in mountain towns is rising, while coal companies keep taking advantage of legal loopholes that allow them to deprive taxpayers of revenues from leasing coal on federal lands. The department has proposed changes to the coal-leasing program to address the problem.

The letter also coincides with the release of a new report, "Paying the Costs of Climate Change," from the nonprofit The Mountain Pact that looks at major economic and environmental impacts of climate change on Western mountain states.

Between 2003 to 2007, according to the report, the 11 western states warmed 70 percent more than the rest of the world, impacting water supplies and snowfall, and leaving landscapes more vulnerable to wildfires and severe weather. These changes have had a ripple effect on communities that rely on tourism and outdoor recreation.

Meanwhile, the letter says, coal companies sell coal to their own subsidiary companies at below-market prices and dodge $1 billion a year in government royalty payments. Other letter signers include Aspen, Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Leadville and Telluride.

"Leadville knows both the positive — and negative — impacts of mining. It is imperative that local communities receive a fair return on those resources," said Leadville Mayor Jaime Stuever. "We have to fix the federal coal program to ensure that mining leaves the environment better than before operations began."

Dillon Ranger District hosts land managers from Brazil

The Dillon Ranger District and White River National Forest hosted three high-level Brazilian land managers May 14 as part of a USDA Forest Service International Programs exchange.

The visitors traveled to Colorado to meet with the Forest Service to learn about how concessions and permits are established, monitored and managed in national forests and national parks.

"For us, as an institution implementing recreation policy, it is important to see and gather experience from the Forest Service which has over 100 years of experience in this area," said Jorge Nogueira, coordinator of public use services for the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservacao da Biodiversidade (ICMBio). "This experience gives us an idea of how we can implement in Brazil and provide recreation opportunities, and how we can use this knowledge to adapt systems to our own country."

As part of the learning opportunity, forest and district leadership took the visitors to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area to demonstrate how the public-private partnership works. The group met with Alan Henceroth, A-Basin COO, to get the perspective of the permittee and business manager.

"It was a great learning opportunity for everyone," stated Shelly Grail-Braudis, Dillon Ranger District mountain sports program leader. "The public-private ski area partnership is unique to the U.S. Forest Service, and it is interesting to share insights and process with international visitors."

For over two decades, the U.S. Forest Service has collaborated with the Brazilian government to conserve biodiversity and forests in the Brazilian Amazon basin using funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"Innovative technologies and management tools are brought back to the U.S. and opportunities to hone U.S. Forest Service skills are increased," said Michelle Zweede, of the Forest Service's International Programs. "Global environmental challenges require natural resources professionals collaborating across borders."

Volunteers invited to construct new Park County trail

The statewide nonprofit Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, in partnership with Mountain Area Land Trust, is seeking volunteers to design and build a public trail at the Pennsylvania Mountain Natural Area in Park County.

The weekend of June 27 and June 28, volunteers will help build a new loop trail that will provide recreation and science research opportunities as well as future access to the pristine location.

While adults and youth ages 12 and up volunteer, kids as young as 6 can partake in a free educational program at the Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center. On both days, as volunteers are shuttled from the campsite to the project, kids will be dropped off at the center, and then they will be picked up at the end of the workday to spend the evening eating dinner and camping with their families.

No experience is necessary, and free meals and camping will be provided to registered volunteers. The project will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.

Volunteers are asked to register in advance through the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado volunteer project calendar at http://www.voc.org/projects or call (303) 715-1010.

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