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Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced on July 1 the Regional Partnerships that will receive grant funding for capacity building and planning in this first round of applications.  Funds available for this first round was $600,000.  Regional Partnerships that receive grants have agreed to develop a regional conservation and recreation plan that contain a vision, goals and measurable objectives, conservation goals and needs, outdoor recreation goals and needs, priority actions and projects, implementation and measurements for monitoring progress. The concept of regional partnerships had been announced in Governor Polis Executive Order on October 30, 2020.

The seven that will receive this initial round of grant funding are: Envision Recreation in Balance Partnership, Metro Denver Nature Alliance, NoCo PLACES 2050, Ouray Recreation and Conservation Alliance, Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Routt Recreation Roundtable, and San Luis Valley Great Outdoors.

Below is the announcement.

Regional Partnerships that will receive funding – first round

The Governor proclaimed the week of December 7-13 as Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week. To reduce any increased impact on Colorado’s natural resources and search and rescue teams Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Tourism Office, Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Colorado Search and Rescue Association developed a backcountry safety pledge.  Take the Pledge

Also see CareForColorado which contains 7 Care for Colorado Principles, Care for Colorado video, Trash the Trash, and other education resources.

 

 

June 5: Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s campgrounds generally are open for groups of 10 or fewer. But before planning a reservation check to see if the county in which the site is located has requested continued closure.

Here is a link to county health orders:http://counties.coloradogeodev.com/safer.html

Note that at State Parks “playgrounds, picnic areas, group areas and designated swim areas”  are closed. For more information, go to

https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/COVID-19-Response.aspx

 

April 6: As you have heard many times by now, “this is a pandemic, not a vacation.” The message from the Governor, Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is that if you are going to enjoy outdoor recreation, do so responsibly and close to home.  Maintain the 6 feet of social distancing. Stay home if sick. Decision making as to which areas are open continues to evolve and is subject to rapid change.  As of now, State Parks remain open – except Sylan Lake State Park in Eagle County. But playgrounds, campgrounds, dispersed camping and camping facilities are closed in state parks. Here are links to Colorado Parks and Wildlife information and responses to frequently asked questions:

https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/COVID-19-Response.aspx?utm_source=CPW-Web&utm_medium=Slider1&utm_campaign=2020_COVID-19_Coronavirus_Info

https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/COVID-19-Response.aspx?utm_source=CPW-Web&utm_medium=Slider1&utm_campaign=2020_COVID-19_Coronavirus_Info#HuntFish

Also download the COTREX (Colorado Traill Explorer) online map app or go to  https://trails.colorado.gov

as CPW will update the map regularly to track trail-related COVID-19 closures across Colorado.  The map also will help you to find an alternative trail if the one you have chosen is too full to enable you to maintain 6 feet of distancing.

There is a quite a patchwork of closures.  Rocky Mountain National Park and Mesa Verde National Park are closed.  US Forest Service has closed campgrounds, restroom picnic sites and “developed” trailheads – which means those with bathrooms and parking lots. Many other trails remain open.  Pack out any trash you have.  And check on your local areas before going.  For example, Waterton Canyon and the Manitou Incline are closed.

For your safety, remember that first responders and medical personnel are stretched near or beyond capacity.  Finally, note the the Governor has asked all of us to wear non-medical masks or other face coverings such as a bandana when we leave home to recreate outdoors. (Upon returning wash your hands immediately for 20 seconds with soap.)

For Colorado Public Lands Day, May 16, keep enjoying nature close to home rather than traveling to public lands and waters in other counties.

On October 16 an Idaho federal district judge issued a preliminary injunction that has reinstated temporarily the 2015 greater sage grouse plans.  These 2015 BLM plans, including the plan in Colorado, were the result of collaborative work by diverse stakeholders over several years to fashion measures designed to help protect this imperiled bird and its sagebrush habitat relied upon by many other species in northwest Colorado. The 2015 Colorado plan specified some grouse habitat as closed to leasing that became opened in the 2019 plan that superseded it.  If BLM appeals the ruling then the 2019 plan likely would be reinstated during the appeal. The question now during this interim period pending an appeal or final ruling is what BLM will do with the parcels within a 1-mile radius of sage grouse leks it leased in its September oil and gas lease sale but has not not yet transferred to the successful bidders.  In addition, BLM has proposed to lease several similar parcels in its December and March 2020 lease sales.  At the least, those parcels should be removed from consideration in those sales, pending an appeal or final ruling.

BLM issued draft environmental impact statements on May 2 to amend its 2015 greater sage grouse plans. The drafts are issued for each of these states including Colorado, opening a 90-day public comment period on May 4 (the date they will be published in the Federal Register), We hope that the (2015) plan remains intact but there likely will be some tweeking. The 2015 plan was developed through collaboration among federal, state and local governments, conservation organizations, agriculture and industry.

The plan “clarifies” mitigation requirements. It states, “The BLM will require and ensure mitigation activities consistent with the recommendation of Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the programs. This will be achieved by avoiding, minimizing, and compensating for impacts by applying beneficial mitigation actions. If the BLM and Colorado Parks and Wildlife determine that there are unacceptable residual impacts on the Greater Sage-Grouse or Greater Sage-Grouse habitat, the BLM will require mitigation that provides a conservation uplift and achieves the outcome consistent with the principles outlined in Appendix H (Guidelines for Implementation and Adaptive Management), consistent with the State of Colorado’s Habitat Exchange and mitigation strategy.”

The net conservation gain standard was not changed, but BLM is requesting comment on compensatory mitigation approach in light of changes to mitigation policies and reconsideration of whether BLM has the authority to impose compensatory mitigation.

Here is the link to the mass of BLM’s Colorado 2018 Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse Draft Resource Management Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement:

The White House budget for FY 2018 shortchanges natural resources values.

Here is the statement from NWF:

WASHINGTON D.C. (May 23, 2017) – Today, the White House released its full budget for

the 2018 fiscal year. Some of the largest cuts are proposed for programs that
restore America’s natural resources, protect public health, and revitalize rural
America. The proposed budget includes deep cuts to the Environmental Protection
Agency, Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, and the reduction or elimination of key collaborative
conservation programs.

Collin
O’Mara,
president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, released
the following statement:
“If you want to see someone’s values, look at their budget – and this budget shows
that America’s air and waters, wildlife, rural communities, and the outdoor economy
are simply not priorities for the administration.
“All Americans deserve clean water that is drinkable, swimmable, and fishable –
regardless of their zip code. The drastic cuts or eliminations of programs
supporting the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Everglades,
Chesapeake, Puget Sound, Colorado, and Sacramento, if adopted, would make it
impossible for the president to fulfill his campaign pledge of ‘crystal clear
water.’ These budget cuts put the health of all Americans who depend upon clean
water at risk.
“The proposed cuts to the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture
undermine the President’s campaign commitments to America’s hunters and anglers and
would harm America’s $887 billion outdoor economy. The cuts would reduce access and
allow further degradation of America’s public lands and leave behind rural
communities across our nation. Most troubling are the deep cuts to collaborative,
bipartisan programs that help recover wildlife populations through non-regulatory
approaches, including USDA conservation programs, the Land and Water Conservation
Fund, and other collaborative recovery programs.
“The most draconian cuts are targeted at the EPA – the agency that protects public
health and air and water quality. It’s one thing to disagree with various regulatory
approaches, it’s a dereliction of duty to remove the funding that is necessary to
protect Americans from toxic air and water pollution, hazardous waste, and unsafe
chemicals. America’s public health will suffer if the EPA is not able to do its job.
“Now that the administration has released its proposed budget, we call upon
bipartisan champions from both parties to reject this budget and speak up for
America’s natural resources, our public health, rural communities, and the growing
outdoor economy. Communities across our nation need Congress to invest in America’s
natural resources and support the hundreds of millions of Americans and the growing
outdoor economy that depend upon them.”

BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) on August 17, 2012 that includes 6 parcels in South Park. Presumably, inclusion of these parcels also was approved by BLM State Director Helen Hankins. 5 of these parcels are in the vicinity of Spinney Mountain Reservoir. Back in November, CWF and NWF, joined by more than 400 residents (Nov. and Jan.) and the County, had asked the BLM to undertake a master planning process that enables BLM to consider where leasing is appropriate and where it is inappropriate — before offering any more oil and gas leases in South Park under its outdated 1996 resource management plan. The County also issued its own letter to the BLM on July 5, requesting planning before issuing more leases. The BLM did not respond to the County’s request. Instead, BLM proposed to lease 6 parcels.

The public comment period began on August 17 and concludes on September 17. CWF will submit comments and encourages you to do so, too. We will post our comments in advance of the due date.

BLM’s rationale for issuing leases as soon as possible in the Royal Gorge Field Office area counties is that if it does not do so it “would set up situations in which reservoirs could not be adequately developed and public minerals would be drained by nearby private or state wells, resulting in a loss of revenue due to drainage situations that could be resolved by timely leasing.” This is not a persuasive rationale for South Park where there is no activity now. BLM’s aim for the parcels close to Spinney’s gold medal fishing waters is to “partially retain existing character of the landscape… the level of change should be moderate….” As to its discussion of cumulative impacts, BLM asserts that such analysis should not occur now but rather when an operator who leases the parcel submits an application for permit to drill (APD). This means an individual site by individual site consideration that certainly does not address cumulative impacts. BLM would apply this apporach to assess “specific geologic formations,” “potential impacts to the site speciifc water quality associated with any exploration and development,” wildlife (beyond lease stipulations), etc. BLM notes that there would begin to be cumulative changes that could detract from the peaceful and serene stated management objectives of the state park by introducing a variety of human intrusions such as roads, equipment, facilities, and workers.”

In addition, Park County has begun a water quality assessment and is testing groundwater with its own funds and some grants. The BLM’s EA states, “…activities at the exploration and development stage could have impacts to water quality. The magnitude and location of direct and indirect effects cannot be predicted until the site-specific APD stage of development.” CWF member, retired Colorado state fisheries manager and South Park landowner Eddie Kochman’s reaction was, ” This is Denver’s watershed. There’s not enough baseline water-quality data available to really judge the risk from oil and gas exploration and production. Before BLM takes any of these actions, there should be good water quality data available, and there’s not.” He added, “To me, a half-mile from Spinney Reservoir (a gold medal waters fishery) is not an adequate distance. “

The US Department of Agriculture has issued the proposed Colorado roadless rule, draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), the DEIS summary, dates for public meetings in Colorado and other information related to this rulemaking. It is available at the national roadless website www.roadless.fs.fed.us

CWF is reviewing the proposed rule and studying impacts to wildlife from changes that the proposed rule would make to the Colorado petition. THe public comment period ends on October 23.