Map of Rocky Mountain National Park with a secondary map of the nine NEON plots on the Leiffer Property in the park.

Extension Request for NEON Site Operations and Infrastructure in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park (park) is considering a proposal submitted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to maintain the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) meteorological tower and associated sampling infrastructure for an additional 26 years rather than for the 10-year time period that was approved.

The purpose of NEON is to provide an integrated research tool for scientists to achieve a better understanding of the biosphere and processes operating at large continental scales. NEON gathers long term data on ecological responses of the biosphere to changes in land use and climate. NSF considers this site as a valuable research station that addresses important research questions that are expected to remain pertinent for the duration of NEON's operations. Specifically, this site enables and supports research questions in forest management, climate change impact, and atmospheric transport and deposition of dust and pollutants.

The NEON tower is located on the Leiffer Property which is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). The site is located south of Estes Park, Colorado, and is accessed by State Highway 7, which runs north-south through the Tahosa Valley. NEON operations at this site began on October 24, 2014 and are scheduled to end on October 23, 2024. The proposed extension would allow NSF/NEON to operate the tower and associated infrastructure until October 23, 2050.

In 2009, NSF prepared a programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate the impacts of the deployment of scientific equipment in 20 domains across the U.S. The park was selected as a site that would include a meteorological tower and soil array. A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the programmatic EA was signed by the National Science Foundation in 2009. In 2010, the NSF/NEON project team met with park staff and proposed moving the site approximately 656 feet (200 m) to the southwest into the middle of a ponderosa pine forest stand, on the same property administered by RMNP. Because this new proposed location was not evaluated as part of the 2009 EA, NPS staff conducted a new EA to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the new location for the installation. A FONSI for this EA was signed by the NPS in 2011. NEON subsequently constructed the tower and began operating the site in 2014.

We are interested in hearing any thoughts you may have about the proposed extension. Public review and comment period will open May 15, 2023 and close on May 29, 2023. To submit a public comment, click on "Open for Comment" on the left side of the page and click on the "Submit a Comment" button.

Comments may also be sent to the following mailing address:

Rocky Mountain National Park
1000 US Highway 36
Estes Park, CO 80517

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment - including your personal identifying information - may be made publicly available at any time. Although you can ask in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee we will be able to do so.
Comment Period: Closed        May 15, 2023 - Jun 2, 2023
Topic Questions:
1. What issues or concerns should park staff consider when reviewing the proposed extension for the NEON meteorological tower and associated sampling infrastructure?
Document Content:
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