Rocky Mountain National Park found to have unhealthy air pollution
Colorado’s four national parks — Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison — were among 36 national parks found to experience moderate or worse ozone pollution according to the Air Quality Index developed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
A recent analysis from the National Parks Conservation Association graded pollution in the country’s 48 national parks and found that every park is plagued by air pollution and climate change impacts.
Air quality in parks can be as bad, or worse, than in some major cities because of emissions from outdated coal plants, and in the Southwest, the pollution is driven by drought, human development and an unprecedented surge in oil and gas development.
“As Americans flock to our national parks this summer to enjoy the great outdoors, they expect and deserve to find clean, healthy air,” said Ulla Reeves, manager of NPCA’s Clean Air Campaign. “Our parks remain under threat from air pollution, harming visitors’ health, reducing visibility, and driving the impacts of climate change.”
Colorado’s parks weren’t the worst in the report. In California, four national parks earned the lowest grade for air quality. Ozone levels are regularly unsafe in Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
The Regional Haze Rule, which the Obama Administration is expected to revise in the next year, is the program under the Clean Air Act responsible for protecting air quality in the parks. Due to loopholes in the rule, the report said, states and polluters can game the system to avoid cleaning up.
“Fortunately, this is one of those rare problems with a simple solution,” Reeves said. “With a stroke of the pen, the President can close the loopholes and make common sense revisions to ensure that states and the Environmental Protection Agency are poised in the coming years to restore dozens of our most treasured national parks to clear, healthy air.”
The NPCA analysis recommends that legal changes must include setting park-centered targets for reducing pollution impacting parks for the next decade, as well as closing loopholes that allow some polluters to escape the rule’s requirements and greater accountability for states to reduce pollution within their borders.
Forest Service spending on fighting fires raises alarms
For the first time in its 110-year history, the U.S. Forest Service is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress wildfires.
A report released Thursday, Aug. 5, by the Forest Service estimates that within a decade, the agency will spend more than two-thirds of its budget to battle ever-increasing fires, while programs that can help prevent fires such as forest restoration and watershed and landscape management will continue to suffer.
Meanwhile, the report notes, catastrophic blazes are projected to burn twice as many acres by 2050.
The agency has nearly $500 million less, in 2015 dollars, than it did in 1995 to handle non-fire related programs. Plus the agency has lost 39 percent loss of its non-fire personnel — from roughly 18,000 in 1998 to fewer than 11,000 in 2015 — while the fire staff has more than doubled.
In recent years, the agency has relied increasingly on fire transfer, or moving resources from non-fire accounts to cover firefighting costs.
Fire seasons now are 78 days longer than in the 1970s, and since 2000, at least 10 states have had their largest fires on record. Increasing development near forest boundaries also drives up costs, as more than 46 million homes and more than 70,000 communities are at risk from wildfire.
“Climate change and other factors are causing the cost of fighting fires to rise every year,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, “but the way we fund our Forest Service hasn’t changed in generations.”
Vilsack said the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, already introduced in the House and Senate, is an important step in addressing the funding problems. The legislation, which mirrors a similar proposal in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, would provide a fiscally responsible mechanism to treat wildfires more like other natural disasters and end fire transfers.
To read the full report, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/about-agency/budget-performance/cost-fire-operations
Help create FEMA flood maps in Frisco
People who own property in a federally designated floodplain are invited to an open house in Frisco on Monday, Aug. 10, to review FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
Floodplain administrators from each local jurisdiction will have copies of the maps available for public review and comment. Public feedback collected during the event will be used by FEMA to finalize the maps.
Representatives from FEMA and the Colorado Water Conservation Board will be on hand to answer questions about the flood map revision process, flood insurance and related topics.
The open house will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Buffalo Mountain Room of the Summit County Commons at 37 Peak One Drive.
Send local environment news to reporter Alli Langley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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