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Wild Colorado briefs

Janice KurbjunSummit Daily News

Starting today, the U.S. Forest Service will be limiting access to sections of the Frisco Peninsula Area on the Dillon Ranger District to allow a contractor to remove dead trees hit by the mountain pine beetle. The work is expected to continue into autumn. The public will still have access to the campgrounds on the peninsula, but the Crown Point Road will be closed to vehicle traffic. Hiking and mountain biking trails will not be closed. Heavy machinery will be felling and skidding trees across some trails, and the public is asked to use caution while on the peninsula and to consider an alternative location for hiking or mountain biking. The Forest Service plans to have a large portion of the cutting completed by autumn. However, the Forest Service plans to clear another large area of beetle kill on the other side of the Peninsula early next year. For more information, contact the Dillon Ranger District at (970) 468-5400.

As one of five recipients of a pool of $500,000 in grant money for the Division of Wildlife’s Habitat Partnership Program, the White River National Forest Blanco Ranger District will focus on the Milk Creek Enhancement Project near Meeker. The grant is meant to help entities in Colorado enhance habitat on private and public land with the goal of keeping big game animals from coming into conflict with adjacent private agricultural landowners. Other recipients this year include the Rio Grande National Forest for its San Luis Valley Water Development project near Saguache; Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest for the Uncompahgre Plateau Habitat Restoration project; Uncompahgre Partnerships North Rim Landscape Restoration project near Hotchkiss; and the Three Rivers Alliances Russian olive and tamarisk removal project in Yuma County. Projects include the use of brush manipulation, weed control, water developments and reseeding to increase habitat and forage for big-game animals. Recipients must complete the work by June 2012.Projects were chosen based on criteria including size and scale of the treatments, types of improvements proposed, and extent of partnerships for the applying entities. The Habitat Protection Program began the grants in 2009 to encourage larger scale habitat improvement projects. This is the second time the program has granted funds for them. By the end of June 2012, an additional $1 million will have been spent by the group to achieve its efforts, not including additional money spent by project partners. Applications for this grant are no longer being accepted, but people interested in local projects should get more information online at http://www.wildlife.state.co.us/landwater.

Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District employees have discovered a rash of vandalism and resource damage this spring. The gate at Red Sandstone was destroyed last Saturday, and several locks on other gates have been cut. Areas on the White River Plateau have been damaged by drivers cutting off-road in a futile attempt to get around snow drifts. Delays on road openings are to protect resources and public safety, officials said. Damaged equipment affects the Forest Service’s limited funding and time and can cause harm to water, soils and vegetation.

The Forest Service has completed an environmental assessment (EA) for the Aspen Skiing Company (SkiCo) Forest Health Project located on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District in Pitkin County, Colorado. The purpose of this project is to maintain or improve forest health conditions in timber stands located within each of the four SkiCo permitted ski areas. The proposed action includes removing dead and dying trees, regenerating lodgepole pine and aspen where they occur, and perpetuating mixed conifer and aspen stands on approximately 845 acres at Aspen Highlands; 185 acres at Aspen Mountain; 403 acres at Buttermilk; and 2,694 acres at Snowmass. The EA is available for public review and comment at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver(navigate to ‘Land & Resources Management’ then ‘Projects’), the Aspen Ranger District office in Aspen, or the White River National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Glenwood Springs. For more information or to request a hard copy of the EA, contact Skye Sieber at (970) 625-6864. The comment period closes on Friday, July 29.

Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams has approved the Aspen-Sopris Wildlife Habitat Improvement Project. In approving the project, Fitzwilliams said, “This project is the largest consolidated effort to improve wildlife habitat on the White River National Forest in recent memory. This project represents one of the most significant steps forward for wildlife habitat improvement in the greater Roaring Fork Valley.” The Aspen-Sopris Wildlife Habitat Improvement Project has been designed to improve wildlife browsing and habitat for bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk and a variety of other native wildlife that inhabit fire-adapted vegetation communities. Over the next ten years, the Forest Service will use a combination of prescribed fire and mechanical treatments to improve wildlife habitat on 45,600 acres of the Aspen and Sopris Ranger Districts and small portions of the Rifle and Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger Districts in Glenwood Canyon. The combination of mechanical treatment and prescribed burning should result in enhanced vegetation vigor and improve over all conditions for wildlife. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, through the Lower Colorado River Habitat Partnership Program, is helping fund the project. The first activities designed to implement this decision can be expected in late summer and fall of this year. Forest Service crews and contractors will mechanically treat approximately 200 acres of oak brush and pinion-juniper habitat in bighorn sheep winter range. These activities will occur in the Avalanche Creek area, an area east of Filoha Meadows in the Crystal River Valley and an area on Arbaney Mesa in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Aspen-Sopris Wildlife Habitat Improvement EA and Decision Notice may be reviewed on the web site for the White River National Forest at http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver. Navigate to “Land & Resource Management” and then to “Projects”. Specific questions regarding the decision and how it will be implemented should be directed to Phil Nyland, Wildlife Biologist and project leader, at (970) 963-2266.

Inspectors at Colorado State Parks have checked more than 50,000 boats for aquatic nuisance species, including zebra and quagga mussels, this summer and found only two boats with mussels attached, indicating that the parks’ education program is working. Both of the boats, which came from other states, were inspected and decontaminated before they entered the water, said Gene Seagle, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for Colorado State Parks. The education effort includes a series of three to five minute videos, posted on the Colorado State Parks website http://www.parks.state.co.us, to help boaters prepare for the mandatory boat inspections.Seagle said the two out-of-state boats with adult quagga mussels attached were found at Crawford Lake State Park in May and Jackson Lake State Park in June. In 2010, eight boats – all from other states – had aquatic nuisance species, and were decontaminated along with 12 other boats with suspected aquatic nuisance species, said Seagle.To protect Colorado’s water, boaters leaving a lake or other waterway, boaters should: • Clean all mud, plants or animals from the hull of the boat.• Drain all of the water from the boat, live well and lower unit of the engine.• Dry the boat and contents before the next launch.


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