13 May 2010, 10:44am
Latest Climate News
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Hurricane forecaster predicts a top 10 season

by John Kelly, Examiner.com, May 12, 2010 [here]

The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season may rival some of the worst in history with meteorological conditions mirroring the 2005 season, the record-breaking year that spawned the Mississippi/New Orleans devastating hurricane named Katrina.

According to Accuweather.com’s chief hurricane meteorologist, Joe Bastardi, not only will it be a very active hurricane season ahead, but it could even rank in the top 10 most active seasons.

Bastardi is predicting a total of 16 to 18 named storms this season.

If this prediction comes to past, the 2010 hurricane season will rank in the top 10 with only 8 years in 160 years on record with seasons of 16 or more named storms.

He also predicts the season will begin early and remain active well into the month of October.

He cited a rapid warming of the Gulf of Mexico and the collapsing El Nino pattern for the heightened forecast activity. Both situations were characteristic of the busy 1998 and record-setting 2005 hurricane seasons. … [more]

Note: In this day and age there are flurries of weathercasters. Most are no better than coin flippers, but Joe Bastardi is a real pro with a track record of accurate forecasts. If you live in hurricane country, batten down the hatches.

12 May 2010, 10:47pm
Latest Forest News
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Payette Road Closure Appeal Meeting

From: Scott Amos

Regarding: USFS final decision closing backcountry roads near Yellow Pine and Big Creek.

Some folks from Yellow Pine are still not aware that they can appeal the USFS road closures. Therefore I’m trying to set up a meeting in town to help people file appeals.

The tentative date for the meeting in Yellow Pine is on Saturday, May 22. The location and time will be worked out as soon as I can strike a deal with the Silver Dollar Grill or obtain use of the community center. If all else fails I will invite the town to drive up the road to my property which currently has a USFS road closed sign and that would make a fitting setting for a road closure meeting.

In the discussion I will include a form and where any appeals need to be mailed or faxed. I will fax the appeals for individuals if they don’t have the means to do so.

If people are thinking of filing appeals on their own, I’ve found these rules the USFS has for them:

1) You had to submit comments during the allowed timeframe back in August or September and they had to be written comments.

2) You must be specific as to why you’re appealling the decision.

3) Appeals must be filed within 45 days of the posting of the final decision.

I’ve filed appeals based on:

1) No economic impact study was done for Yellow Pine and Big Creek, which violated the 2001 roadless rule.

2) Many of the roads which the USFS is closing are RS2477 roads, which are state and county property by federal law and which the USFS has no jurisdiction.

3) Additionally, the USFS is closing many roads which they did not hold public comment on, which further violates the 2001 roadless rule.

4) The USFS is enacting procedures they want to see that would be granted to them by the 2001 roadless rule. However, the 2001 roadless rule in its entireity has been declared illegal by US district court judge from Wyoming and therefore has not passed into law yet. Any actions under the 2001 roadless rule would currently be illegal.

People wishing to discuss these issues further can call or email me (contact Scott via W.I.S.E [here])

Sincerely,
Scott Amos

The Payette NF road closure final decision notice is [here]

Judge declares 2001 roadless rule illegal [here]

Update: the meeting will be held at the Silver Dollar Cafe on Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 4 pm.

12 May 2010, 10:45pm
Latest Forest News
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Unprecedented forest management eyed in Aspen area

Forest Service wants to use fire, mulching to improve habitat on 57,000 acres

by Scott Condon, The Aspen Times, May 12, 2010 [here]

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The U.S. Forest Service wants to burn and mulch the forest surrounding the Roaring Fork basin at an unprecedented level over the next five years to restore wildlife habitat described by officials as being in “horrible” condition.

The White River National Forest supervisor’s office in Glenwood Springs is considering prescribed burns, mechanical treatment with heavy machinery or a combination of the two on about 57,000 acres. The project sites range from a portion of Red Mountain north of Aspen, to the Nast area in the Fryingpan Valley, the canyons east of Glenwood Springs and the Assignation Ridge area on the west side of Highway 133 between Redstone and Carbondale.

A specific list of projects hasn’t been released yet, but the Forest Service intends to make it available shortly. All of the projects are designed to enhance wildlife habitat rather than deal directly with trees killed by beetles, although that may be an extra benefit in some cases, said Phil Nyland, wildlife biologist on the forest.

White River Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, who took the top post in the 2.3 million-acre forest last fall, said he was surprised to learn about the condition of wildlife habitat around the Roaring Fork Valley.

“The winter and transitional range is in very poor condition, in a general sense,” he said. “I would describe it as horrible.”

Forest Service officials hope to gain the support of Roaring Fork Valley residents for the projects. But Fitzwilliams acknowledged it could be a tough sell with some residents because it involves putting up with smoke from prescribed burns and temporarily charred or razed hillsides.

“This is definitely breaking new ground” in the Roaring Fork Valley, he said.

The Forest Service is undertaking a special effort to educate the public about the projects and to gauge support. Nyland said open houses will be held over the next six to eight weeks. He will also meet with neighborhood caucuses, and information will be shared through various media. The projects will go through the process required under the National Environmental Policy Act, which means an environmental assessment with a public comment opportunity.

Fitzwilliams said the Forest Service must show residents that sitting by and “letting nature run its course” isn’t a legitimate option. Decades of fire suppression has already blocked nature from taking its course.

“In this valley, vegetation treatment has been non-existent for the last 25 years,” Fitzwilliams said. “It’s vitally important to this valley that we do something. … [more]

8 May 2010, 3:29pm
Latest Wildlife News
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World’s biggest beaver dam discovered in northern Canada

by Michel Comte and Jacques Lemieux, Yahoo News, May 5, 2010 [here]

OTTAWA (AFP) – A Canadian ecologist has discovered the world’s largest beaver dam in a remote area of northern Alberta, an animal-made structure so large it is visible from space.

Researcher Jean Thie said Wednesday he used satellite imagery and Google Earth software to locate the dam, which is about 850 metres (2,800 feet) long on the southern edge of Wood Buffalo National Park.

Average beaver dams in Canada are 10 to 100 metres long, and only rarely do they reach 500 metres.

First discovered in October 2007, the gigantic dam is located in a virtually inaccessible part of the park south of Lac Claire, about 190 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of Fort McMurray.

Construction of the dam likely started in the mid-1970s, said Thie, who made his discovery quite by accident while tracking melting permafrost in Canada’s far north.

“Several generations of beavers worked on it and it’s still growing,” he told AFP in Ottawa. … [more]

8 May 2010, 1:32pm
Latest Forest News
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Elko County heating up again over USFS road plan

By JULIE WOOTTON, Elko Daily Free Press, May 6, 2010 [here]

ELKO — “No action” isn’t a viable final decision for the Travel Management Plan, a U.S. Forest Service ranger told Elko County Commissioners Wednesday.

The public comment period opens Friday on the Forest Service’s draft environmental impact statement and continues until mid-June.

Gar Abbas, Ruby Mountains and Jarbidge district ranger, said a final decision must be made by the end of the year. The original deadline was December 2009.

The Mountain City, Ruby Mountains and Jarbidge Ranger Districts’ Combined Travel Management Project is the only plan in Nevada that hasn’t been approved, Abbas said.

Commissioner Warren Russell asked whether “no action,” which is one the Forest Service’s five alternatives in the draft EIS, is actually a real option.

“Is it baloney or not?” Russell asked.

Abbas said the Forest Service is required to include “no action” as an alternative in the draft EIS because it serves as a baseline for the environmental analysis. However, the Forest Service can’t choose the “no action” alternative as a final decision because it would violate former President George W. Bush’s 2005 executive order for each forest to establish a Travel Management Plan.

Elko County Planner Randy Brown said he is in the process of reviewing the draft EIS for the second time and he has about three pages of questions.

“It makes me angry every time I turn a page,” he said. “We’ve been lied to again.”

Brown said he would recommend the “no action” alternative.

“We’re losing a lot more than we’re being told,” he said. …

Commissioner John Ellison said through closing roads, the federal government is setting people up for failure.

“What are you guys doing?” he asked. … [more]

6 May 2010, 6:55pm
Latest Forest News
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Democrats thwart Rep. Rob Bishop’s move to obtain ‘national monument’ documents

By Lee Davidson, Deseret News, May 5, 2010 [here]

WASHINGTON — Democrats on Wednesday narrowly beat back a Republican attempt co-led by Rep. Rob Bishop to force the Obama administration to turn over the still secret portions of a partially leaked document that showed the administration was considering creating 14 new national monuments, including two in Utah.

However, Bishop said the administration did turn over 383 out of 2,399 pages Republicans have been seeking, but that means its batting average is only .149 in providing the documents.

“By refusing to turn over thousands of pages of documents to Congress about this administration’s potential plans to lock up millions of acres of lands, they have destroyed any remaining illusion about being transparent,” Bishop said.

Bishop and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., tried to push through the House Natural Resources Committee a “resolution of inquiry” to force the release of the full document.

However, the committee on Wednesday killed a motion to favorably report it on a 22-20 vote. Instead, it reported the resolution by voice vote without recommendation, a sign that it has small chance of making it to the House floor. … [more]

Note: Oregon District 4 Congressman Peter DeFazio voted to bury the documents behind a stone wall. Secret insider dealings with the public’s land are none of the damn public’s damn business, according to “Boston” Pete.

6 May 2010, 6:41pm
Tramps and Thieves
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House Minority Leader looks to AG for answers on LNG controversy

BY SARAH ROSS, Oregon Politico, May 6, 2010 [here]

SALEM- House Minority Leader Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, sent a letter Thursday to Attorney General John Kroger asking him to release documents related to the AG’s former special counsel, Brent Foster.

Foster is currently under investigation by the Marion County District Attorney after misrepresenting himself in a criminal environmental case.

NorthCoastOregon.com had requested to see 69 e-mail documents having to do with Foster’s time in the AG’s office but was declined. Now Rep. Hanna is requesting that the same documents be released.

“Mr. Foster’s involvement in the LNG issue, as well as recent revelations regarding Hood River Juice, leads me to question your commitment to promoting a positive business climate and defending the rights of all Oregonians,” wrote Rep. Hanna.

Rep. Hanna expressed how troubled he was at the office’s “unwillingness to disclose documents relating to interactions between your office, various state agencies and various special interest groups.”

The House Minority Leader was also concerned that the Attorney General had granted special waivers to Foster during his work with special interest groups to “undermine the development of energy projects.”

Taxing the Heart out of Australia

by Viv Forbes, Freedom Advocates, 03 May 2010 [here]

The Carbon Sense Coalition today claimed that the Rudd Resource tax was just another in a long line of taxes helping to depopulate rural Australia.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense,” Mr. Viv Forbes, said that depopulation of the outback started with the fringe benefits tax and the removal of accelerated depreciation, both of which penalise companies who provide housing for employees.

“Every government since then has accelerated the drift to the coastal and capital cities.”

“The heavy burdens of excessive fuel taxes, coal royalties, rail freights and infrastructure bottlenecks have for years restricted the development of the outback resource industry. Only deposits that are rich or close to the coast can pay their way, which is why the Galilee Basin has been undeveloped for so long.”

“The vegetation control bans, water mismanagement and growth of carbon credit forests are depressing agriculture and will depopulate rural towns.”

“Humans and their industries are also prohibited from vast areas of our land and sea sterilised by a confusing mixture of exclusion zones. And the lack and high cost of outback infrastructure has fed the fly-in mentality of industry and governments.” … [more]

5 May 2010, 11:00pm
Latest Forest News
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Court upholds timber sales in Tongass Nat’l Forest

By MARY PEMBERTON (AP), Google News, May 3, 2010 [here]

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Two conservation groups have failed to stop four timber sale offerings they say threaten a rare species of wolf that lives in the Tongass National Forest.

Greenpeace and Cascadia Wildlands Project filed a lawsuit two years ago accusing the U.S. Forest Service of violating federal environmental laws when planning for the sales.

Together, the timber sales amount to 30 million board-feet of Tongass timber — about the same as was harvested last year from the nation’s largest national forest.

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline found no wrongdoing on the part of the Forest Service, describing the problem as more of a “scientific disagreement” rather than an error by the agency. He said the Forest Service conducted an extensive environmental analysis of the four projects in the national forest that covers about 26,500 square miles — more than the entire state of West Virginia.

Tongass Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole said Monday that the timber industry has changed since the projects were planned with the idling of another mill in southeast Alaska.

Pacific Log and Lumber, one of the mills that might have been interested in the largest of the timber sales, is no longer operating on Gravina Island. The company’s website says, “Extreme pressure from environmental groups combined with the inability of the Forest Service to implement change rapidly has resulted in insufficient log supply to sustain milling operations on a continuous basis.”

Cole said that generally when timber sales face legal challenges, they are not put up for bid until those issues are resolved. He said he’s glad the legal issues have been resolved for now.

“I am pleased to be out of District Court and at a place to at least look at what opportunities we have available,” Cole said.

Greenpeace and Cascadia Wildlands sought a court order to stop the projects … [more]

5 May 2010, 10:59pm
Latest Forest News
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Federal Judge Upholds Drilling In SW Colorado

CBS4 Denver, May 3, 2010 [here]

DENVER (AP) A federal judge has upheld approval of gas wells in parts of the southwestern Colorado mountains, rejecting arguments by environmentalists that the plan doesn’t adequately protect sensitive areas and wildlife.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said in his ruling, issued Monday, that any flaws in the plan authorizing about 140 natural gas wells in the San Juan National Forest are “minor in proportion to the full context of the agency action under review.”

Environmental groups contend the project conflicts with the forest management plan. They say federal agencies’ pledges to avoid old growth forests and protect key wildlife habitat and waterways on the public land have been ignored.

Of special interest are the HD Mountains, which include roadless areas and make up roughly 45,000 acres of the 125,000-acre project area.

Environmentalists also argued in a December hearing that the environmental assessment of the project didn’t adequately consider the potential effects on air quality, particularly on nearby federal wilderness areas and national parks in Colorado and New Mexico.

Matsch said the environmental groups can appeal to state and federal environmental agencies if the pollution from the energy development violates air-quality standards. He also disagreed with the argument that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management acted arbitrarily in approving the drilling. He said the plan authorizing the wells contains detailed ways to protect wildlife and old-growth forests and the measures have not been “regularly disregarded” as the environmental groups claim.

Matsch rejected the groups’ contention that the agencies should have considered whether approving the wells would prevent the HD Mountains and the Archuleta Mesa from future designation as federal wilderness areas. He wrote that the HD Mountains are managed for multiple uses, including oil and gas development.

Energy companies that intervened in the lawsuit on the government’s behalf note there are already gas wells in the area. … [more]

USDA announces programs to get kids active in national forests

Forests as a tool to fight obesity

Summit Daily News, May 5, 2010 [here]

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service will contribute $500,000 this year to the “More Kids in the Woods” program for projects that promote active lifestyles and connect kids to nature.

One of the funded projects will be in the White River National Forest.

“If we are going to put an end to childhood obesity, we must promote healthy, active lifestyles and encourage our kids to get off the couch and go outside,” Vilsack said. “Our More Kids in the Woods challenge not only promotes physical activity, it fosters environmental awareness and stewardship among young people as we face critical environmental challenges, such as the effects of climate change.”

Vilsack said the initiatives supported by the program will help children make a connection among “healthy forests, healthy communities and their own healthy lifestyles.” … [more]

5 May 2010, 10:57pm
Latest Forest News
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Forester Warns Of Closures In Beetle-Killed Areas

by MEAD GRUVER, CBS4 Denver, May 4, 2010 [here]

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) A top U.S. Forest Service official says he might have to close off national forests in Wyoming and Colorado unless more work is done quickly to cut down beetle-killed trees near roads, trails and campsites.

Regional Forester Rick Cables told congressmen Tuesday he expects 100,000 trees a day to fall in the forests of Colorado and southern Wyoming over the next decade.

Trees are falling on roads and trails and are a safety concern, Cables told the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, which discussed the beetle epidemic during a field hearing in Cheyenne.

“We’ve had several near-misses already,” he said.

A representative of a Colorado forest products company said it’s ready to help.

But Gov. Dave Freudenthal was skeptical about the need to close forests — a touchy proposition in a state where people love to hunt, hike, camp and fish and frequently second-guess the motives of federal land managers.

“I think that is a bit of an overreaction,” Freudenthal said in a news conference later.

Committee member Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., hosted the field hearing, one of several planned as the committee looks ahead to the 2012 farm bill. Beetles were a topic because the U.S. Forest Service is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Beetles have been killing pine forests across the West over the past decade. Late last year, the Forest Service allocated $40 million to clear some of the 3.6 million acres of beetle-killed forest in Colorado and Wyoming.

All of the money already has been dedicated to projects to clear trees near roads and other infrastructure, Cables said, and more is needed. The forests have more than 3,000 miles of roads and a typical contract to clear trees along roads runs $40,000 a mile, he said.

That multiplies out to more than $100 million needed, Cables said.

“We really appreciate the $40 million,” he said. “But the scale of this problem is very large.” … [more]

5 May 2010, 10:56pm
Latest Fire News Latest Forest News
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Sierra program aims to nurture forest

Plan targets management, jobs and environment.

By Marc Benjamin, The Fresno Bee, May 02, 2010 [here]

A state agency overseeing the 22-county Sierra region is preparing an ambitious plan to add jobs in mountain communities, keep forests healthy, protect water supplies and reduce fire danger.

And, to make sure the Sustainable Sierra Nevada Initiative has wide support, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy is working with timber, environmental, biomass and government officials to develop it.

Most agree that forests need thinning to reduce the threat of catastrophic fire, and those forest operations could create new job opportunities.

But balancing forest management with environmental concerns has been a tricky proposition.

The initiative “is an opportunity to move things forward in a different way,” said Jim Branham, executive officer for the Auburn-based conservancy, a state agency charged with promoting the Sierra’s environment and economy.

Sustainable Sierra Nevada Initiative

The initiative will set principles to follow in the coming years, providing the framework for specific policies, officials said.

Almost everyone agrees on the types of principles needed in the initiative, much of which has to do with clearing brush and tree fuels that can spark large fires, said Craig Thomas, executive director of Sierra Forest Legacy, an environmental group based in Sacramento that is one of six environmental organizations supporting the proposal.

But there is not full buy-in by all sides yet on all the initiative’s proposals.

Brian Nowicki, California climate policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said some of the initiative’s principles are too vague. …

Branham said he doesn’t expect unanimous support for the plan.

“Some environmentalists think we shouldn’t do thinning and some on the other side will think we are not aggressive enough,” he said.

In addition to fire management, the initiative addresses the need to develop jobs for residents in the economically struggling Sierra.

Steve Wilensky, a Calaveras County supervisor, said his district once had 22 lumber mills, but the last closed 16 years ago.

Now, more than 25% of the work force is unemployed and 86% of children are eligible for at least partially paid school lunches.

But there is hope: Wilensky helped write a jobs-creation program that began in 2005 with the aim of putting people to work thinning forests, moving wood chips to a biomass plant and burning the wood to create electricity. He also sees a market for wood pellets, posts and poles, pressed logs and craftsman woodworking products.

Wilensky’s program is a model for some of the initiative’s proposals. … [more]

5 May 2010, 10:55pm
Latest Fire News Latest Forest News
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Feds asking ski areas, water utilities for help with beetle-ravaged forests

By Bruce Finley, The Denver Post, 05/05/2010 [here]

The threat to watersheds from fire-prone dying forests is growing so severe that federal forest managers are seeking help from water utilities, ski resorts and others in ravaged Western states.

“The federal government doesn’t have enough resources to deal with this,” said Harris Sherman, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment.

But enlisting the likes of Denver Water to fund the removal of beetle-killed trees may be difficult because utilities probably would have to raise rates for customers.

The problem is erosion of sediment, which clogs water-supply reservoirs and delivery systems as it did after the 2002 Hayman wildfire southwest of Denver. Today, with more than 17 million acres of national forest killed by the beetle epidemic (3.5 million acres in Colorado), authorities are bracing for fires that could cause more erosion in watersheds.

The Forest Service already is spending about $1 billion a year to clear and treat beetle-ravaged forests. The total cost of treating forests “is in the billions of dollars,” Sherman said.

Denver Water officials are weighing the federal appeal, including the concept of a surcharge.

“It’s in our self-interest,” said Penfield Tate, president of Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners. “It will be far more cost-effective to manage the watershed than it would be to wait for another forest fire to occur.”

No one is committed to charging water users more, he said, “but we recognize we already have a cost we incur, and it would probably be better spent avoiding the damage rather than paying for the cleanup after the damage.”

Dealing with erosion from the Hayman fire is expected to top $41 million. Denver Water contractors still toil at dredging reservoirs and clearing pipes. … [more]

Note: Thanks for the news tip to Chuck H. who writes,

Locking up large acreages in roadless areas, mostly in the upper reaches of watersheds that will be major contributors of fuel and clogging debris downstream, just does not make good sense and should be a concern of user groups that will be asked to pay part of the bill to clear out this debris in the lower reaches of the watersheds.

If water users and other user groups are going to help pay the bill, especially after large fires like Hayman (ignited by a FS employee), then it seems reasonable to me that the user groups should have some part in the land management decision making. With recent appointments of retirees and other informed citizens and officials to NF advisory committees it seems this subject should come under heavy discussion by these advisory groups.

5 May 2010, 10:53pm
Latest Forest News
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Wilderness designation will deter rescue efforts

By Cleve Williams, West Eagle County Search and Rescue, Letter to The Aspen Times, May 5, 2010 [here]

Dear Editor:

West Eagle Search & Rescue is an all-volunteer group of people from the Basalt and Carbondale areas in Eagle County. Our team has assisted in hundreds of backcountry incidents in the past 20 years, including plane crashes, avalanches, illnesses, broken bones, lost individuals and suicides, plus horse, snowmobile, bicycle, ATV, cross-country skiing and climbing accidents.

By the time a reporting party gets out of the backcountry to a place where they can call 911, many hours may have gone by. We are then paged; we have to make a plan, gather our gear and meet at the trailhead. Many injuries that could be easily treatable in the ER turn deadly because of the passage of time.

We use helicopters to access injured parties when necessary, but often weather, darkness and terrain make them an unfeasible option. If we can ride snowmobiles or ATVs closer to the victim, we can reach injured parties at least four times faster than if we had to hike and pack supplies in (and patients out) on foot. If it were you lying in the backcountry with a broken leg, wouldn’t you want us to get to you as soon as possible — via snowmobile?

Currently we can get permission from the government to use our motorized vehicles in Wilderness, but this often takes a lot of time and energy — time and energy that we could be using to do what we do: help the injured party as quickly as possible.

The areas that are being slated for Wilderness have many old logging roads, trails and bike paths. The people who use these trails maintain them and keep the underbrush and deadfall cleared. If these areas are turned into Wilderness, existing trails will become so choked with deadfall that even with permission we will no longer be able to get an ATV or snowmobile up them.

Turning these areas into Wilderness will make our work much harder, slower and more dangerous — for the patient and for the rescuer.

Please say NO to the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal.

 
  
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