Standley Lake Forest and Nature Pollution Official Statement

This statement will analyze methods to manage the restoration and conservation of native plants and wildlife and explore opportunities for public use and education. The statement will also examine the establishment of a refuge area and will disclose the impacts of restoration, and projected visitor usage. The proposed refuge will be located on the former site of the Standley Federal Hazardous Waste site, where hazardous wastes were stored and disposed of. After several instances of improper storage disposal of hazardous wastes in violation of RCRA, the facility was shut down and the site was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).

It was then designated as a Superfund location. Efforts towards clean-up and mitigation were overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Upon the completion of the clean-up and official closure of the facility by the EPA, the site was inspected and the EPA issued a certification that the site met clean-up and remediation standards.

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The US Fish and Wildlife Services then assumed management of the site with the goal of wildlife conservation, restoration of the native ecosystem, and re-establishing natural habitats. Four alternative uses for the Standley Lake Wildlife Refuge have been proposed and include 1. No additional action with very limited public use and no additional conservation efforts after the initial establishment of the refuge. 2. Significant wildlife and plant life conservation and restoration efforts with limited scale public access. 3. Wildlife habitat conservation and plant life restoration with moderate public usage.

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4. Broad public access for observation, education, and research. Benefits for all options include the maintenance and protection of habitat. The benefits of all options include the reestablishment of grasslands and the re-establishment of native wildlife. Options 3 and 4 will also focus on the development of trail systems within the refuge and will include research, educational, and outreach opportunities, as well as public access.

Purpose and Need

After decades of operation, the Standley Lake Federal Hazardous Waste Facility shifted from storage and disposal operations to clean-up and mitigation of hazardous waste-related contamination. The ultimate goal following the clean-up and remediation is to create a designated wildlife refuge and to restore the area to its pre-developed conditions. The site is over 5,000 acres with a former storage facility area of 500 acres located near the center of the refuge. The highest levels of contamination were within the 500 acres of industrial activity. The outlying space around the former facility makes up a “buffer zone” with little to no contamination. The site is located within twenty miles of a major city as well as other highly populated residential areas, and near the Rocky Mountain foothills. The site is located within two miles of the Standley Lake reservoir and recreation area. Once clean up and mitigation was completed under the supervision of the EPA, CDPHE, and other agencies, the EPA then issued a certification that appropriate action has been taken.

The EPA will ultimately transfer supervisory authority to the US Fish and Wildlife service’s once the EPA receives a formal EIS with the final plan selected. The US Fish and Wildlife Services will then oversee the establish the refuge area in accordance with the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) specifications with the mission to “administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.” (National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997.) The NWRS has established the following goals for the refuge to conserve and restore native plants and wildlife, create a space for public use, education, and research; to safely complete the final stages of remediation and clean up, to participate in open community outreach to educate the public about the refuge, to partner with government agencies and members of the community to promote conservation and recreational use of the refuge, and to provide staff and other facilities necessary for refuge functions.

The scope of planning for the Standley Lake Wildlife Refuge in compliance with the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) followed the Comprehensive Conservation Planning Process (CCPP) and NEPA Compliance steps of “A. preplanning, B. initiating public involvement and scoping C. reviewing vision statement and goals and determine significant issues D. develop and analyze alternatives E. prepare draft plan and NEPA documents (EIS) F. Prepare and adopt final plan G. implement plan, monitor and evaluate H. review and revise plan.” During the planning process, several significant issues were identified including the management and restoration of native vegetation; the protection of wildlife, migration, reintroduction, and population control; the scope of public usage and related facilities. The director for the Rocky Mountain region of the US Fish and Wildlife Services will make the final determination from the four alternative proposals. The determination will be delivered in a Record of Decision (ROD) within thirty days after a final EIS is submitted to the EPA. Implementation of the plan will begin when the Standley Lake Wildlife Refuge is officially established by the NWSR, and the EPA will formally transfer authority to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Proposed Action and Alternatives

This section will access the four alternative plans of action that have been proposed for the development of the Standley Lake Wildlife Refuge. Each alternative will address the significant issues identified during the scoping process (vegetation management, wildlife management, public access, cultural resources, property rights, infrastructure and, refuge administrations and operations). As part of the planning process, three management zones where identified, and include wetlands and riparian zones, xeric grasslands, and mixed grasslands in order to facilitate the organization, planning, and implementation of alternatives. The first proposed alternative is the “No Action” plan, in which no additional development, restoration, or educational programs would occur after establishment of the Standley Lake Wildlife Refuge. Visitor access would be limited to only pre-approved research and observation, with no access for the general public.

The plan would allow for the natural redevelopment of native vegetation and wildlife. The second proposed alternative is the “Habitat Restoration” approach, with a primary emphasis on large-scale conservation and restoration with the principal goal of achieving pre-settled conditions. A heavy focus will be placed on re-establishing threatened species of wildlife and plant. Public access would be restricted to guided tours of the refuge, trail development would be limited. Offices and other administrative buildings would be located outside of the refuge. Educational and environmental programs would be limited to guided tours and published educational materials. However, there would be the opportunity for long-term research related to the re-establishment of habitat and effects of long-term habitat change. The third option is the “Public Use and Conservation” alternative and is the preferred option of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This alternative focuses on wildlife and plant life conservation and restoration mixed with reasonable public use. Conservation efforts will focus on restoration of vegetation in areas with previous industrial activity and the removal of unused roads and buildings and aid in the re-establishment of native flora to those areas. The plan allows for the supervision and management of pronghorn and deer populations, as well as the reintroduction and protection of threatened populations of the black-footed ferret and prairie burrowing owl. Conservation and preservations methods will be implemented to restore the landscape to a predeveloped condition. Public use of the refuge will include an extensive trail system utilizing some previous roads, with parking, visitor stations, and designated overlook areas. The refuge will also partner with the Division of Wildlife (DOW) to offer limited hunting permit programs. Environmental didactic programs will be offered to highlight the unique prairie ecosystem of the refuge.

Lastly, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will provide an opportunity for federal, state, and local research of the conservation and restoration efforts and outcomes. The fourth alternative is the “Public Access” alternative, which will focus restoration efforts to specific flora and fauna on designated areas of the refuge with some areas of prior use reestablished with local vegetation. Public use of the refuge will include wildlife observation, interpretive trails, environmental education programs, and a partnership with the DOW to provide limited hunting programs. An extensive trail system will follow previously constructed roads with anticipated usage for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping. A visitor center will also house educations programs directed at elementary school levels. Research opportunities will highlight the integration of the refuge space with mixed public use lands.

Affected Environment

This section will address the potential impact of the proposed alternatives on to the local environment of the Standley Lake Wildlife Refuge Area. Geography and Topology-The Standley Lake Wildlife Refuge landscape is approximately 5,000 acres and is primarily characterized by rolling plains in the Northeast section of the site leading to an expansive prairie landscape with several small surface water streams and creeks flowing southwest to the nearby Standley Lake. The site is comprised of three management zones, native prairie grassland, mixed grasslands, wetland and riparian zones. The semi-arid climate is typical of western Great Plains and Rocky Mountain foothill regions. Due to the relatively dry nature of the refuge area, and delicate ecosystem during re-establishment, fires will not be permissible if public access is allowed. Elevations range from 5,500 from the southwest leading up to 6,000 feet in the northeast. The Standley Lake Wildlife Refuge is bordered on the north and west sides by open space leading to the Rocky Mountain foothills. Low volume county roads border the east and south sides of the refuge, which previously provided entry to the hazardous waste storage facility with small local roads.

Geology- The geology of the site is primarily comprised of surface deposited Aeolian and alluvium deposits to the northeast becoming interspersed with sandy and clay soils atop the bedrock of limestone and sandstone. Surface soil contamination represented the largest area of contamination occurring from the hazardous waste facility and has been remediated by the EPA. Water systems-Water systems of the refuge site include surface and groundwater systems. Surface water systems include two major creeks and several small streams that fluctuate seasonally dependent upon rainfall and feed into the Standly Lake reservoir. Minor hazardous waste contamination occurred in the surface water systems, which have since been remediated by the EPA. Groundwater systems of the refuge area are comprised of aquifers, which were not impacted by hazardous waste contamination.

Vegetation-The native prairie grasslands are host to several types of rare xeric (low-water) grasses including Xeric Needle and Thread Grass and various bluegrasses which have lost territory to urbanization, agricultural processes, invasive plants and noxious weeds. The native grassland area may require significant efforts towards weed control until grasses are reestablished. The mixed grasslands represent the most expansive zone, covering the rolling plains and prairie of the refuge, and provide a habitat to a majority of the refuge wildlife. Typical vegetation included wheatgrasses, bluegrasses, and yarrow. The mixed grasslands will likely be expanded and reestablished in areas of prior plant devolvement, however, the management of noxious weeds will need to be carefully implemented to restore mixed grassland vegetation. The wetland and riparian areas broadly encompass a small concentration of riparian woodland and shrubland, marshes and wetlands along the streams and creeks. The area is host to a variety of vegetation and account for upwards of half of the plant life within the refuge including willows, hawthorns, chokecherries, grasses, and sumac.

Wildlife-The refuge is home to diverse wildlife including large, small, and predatory mammals. Additionally, the area is the habitat of many birds and aquatic animals. The most numerous large mammal is the mule deer, with large herds maintaining their population even during the era of the operation of the hazardous waste storage facility. The stable population may allow for limited hunting permits with the approval of the DOW. Pronghorn are also native to the area, and populations may be increased by alternative plans. Additionally, several hares, raccoons, coyotes, prairie dogs, voles, and mice have well-established populations in the refuge. The black-footed ferret has lost significant habitat and will necessitate additional conservation and protection under many alternative plans. The refuge is home to many raptors, including red tail hawks, the American kestrel, and prairie falcons. Additionally, the grasslands and marshlands are habitats for numerous birds including finches, larks, warblers, magpies, chickadees, and other bird species. The area does provide habitat for burrowing owls, which are currently listed as threated. The small streams and creeks provide habitat for aquatic and amphibious wildlife, with efforts to restore native fish populations including the rainbow trout to the area.

Demographics- The wildlife refuge is located within Jefferson County with an approximate population of 600,000. According to Jefferson County records “The total population was evenly split with about 49.7% male and 50.3% female. 20.6% of the County’s total population were under 18 years of age and 15.1% were 65 years and older The Median Household Income increased 9.9% from 2010 to 2015 while the Per Capita Income gained 12.3%. Persons in poverty also increased from 6.6% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2015.”

Expected Impact

This section will assess the anticipated impacts of the various alternatives proposed and will address direct and indirect impacts of proposed actions. A primary goal for the refuge is management of re-vegetation. Option 1 will allow for minor noxious weed control and prescribed burns in xeric grass areas after remediation to begin the process of re-establishment, but includes no further action. Alternative plans 2 through 4 include efforts to conserve xeric prairie grasses by removing roadways and instituting weed management measure to encourage spread of existing vegetation. Due to the loss of vegetation, options 2 through 4 will focus efforts to restore approximately 250 acres of xeric grasslands. In addition, these plans would include prescribed burn areas to encourage regrowth of native plants while reducing the potential for wildfires long-term.

Options 2 through 4 will also allow for the restoration of mixed grasslands using weed control methods and road restoration with option 2 focusing efforts 1000 acres of grasslands, options 3 and 4 will focus on a smaller scale with a projected area of 500 acres of restoration. Option 1 will not include efforts towards restoration of mixed grasslands. Wetlands and Riparian areas would see little additional impact under option 1, with the greatest focus on protection from option 2 with conservation efforts focused on protection of wetland and riparian areas. Options 3 and 4 would allow for conservation efforts, but will also allow for trails and public access near wetland and riparian areas however off trail use would be prohibited under all plans. The removal of roadways may cause short-term disruption to the habitat until vegetation is established. All options will positively benefit the restoration of mixed grasslands, xeric grasslands, and wetland.

Another major goal for the refuge is wildlife conservation and management. Option 1 would include no additional action towards wildlife conservation or population management after the establishment of the refuge and would have negligible impact. Deer populations will be managed under both options 3 and 4, with the DOW issuing limited hunting permits. Wildlife displacement may be a potential negative to option 3 and 4, as greater access to the refuge will be accessible by trial. Additionally, the re-purposing of roadways to trials may cause temporary disruption to wildlife. Option 2 provides the most protection for wildlife and will have limited visitor access by guided tour only, causing less disturbance to wildlife. Option 2 would support conservation and re-introduction of threatened species including the black-footed ferret and burrowing owl. Areas, where threatened species are being re-established, will be inaccessible to the public, however, limited research opportunities will be approved in order to track and monitor threatened wildlife. Approved research may be conducted to monitor and track threatened species.

All options will provide positive benefits for wildlife through monitoring and research. Benefits of options 1 and 2 are the minimal disruption of wildlife and their habitats. Public use would be entirely eliminated with option 1 however approved research would be permitted to observe and monitor the impact of habitat change. Option 3 includes a moderate amount of public access, with the development of a twelve-mile trail system developed on existing roadways. The trials would feature educational signage, overlook areas and would be accessible to pedestrians. Other facilities would include a visitor center that would house educational meeting rooms and parking facilities. Option 4 would allow for eighteen miles of trail systems and would allow for pedestrian traffic, cycling, and horseback riding. Facilities would include parking, restrooms, small campsites (fire bans will be noted and enforced), offices, and an education and visitor center. Option 4 would require significant development. Options 3 and 4 create the greatest benefit for public use, while options 1 and 2 provide the greatest benefit for research opportunity.

Consultation and Coordination

As part of the scoping process, public input played a substantial role in the development of the four proposed alternatives. Public meeting were held throughout Jefferson County where numerous public comments were provided. Public participation Along with public participation the following agencies where consulted: National Wildlife Refuge Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment , Colorado Division of Wildlife, Jefferson County, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology, Colorado Geological Survey, Colorado Energy Office, State Land Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ,Urban Drainage and Flood Control District.

Cite this page

Standley Lake Forest and Nature Pollution Official Statement. (2021, Dec 23). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/standley-lake-forest-and-nature-pollution-official-statement-essay

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