State shifting resources away from intensive on-the-ground monitoring; total cost of program so far is about $3.7 million, mostly funded by donations and GOCO dollars
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — After 12 years, the Colorado Division of Wildlife is transitioning away from intensive statewide on-the-ground lynx monitoring. Instead, the wildlife agency will move toward statistical modeling of lynx populations, and the use of remote sensing equipment to help track the rare cats.
At the peak of the program, the division was spending about $400,000 per year on lynx recovery. last year, the budget for the program dropped by about $150,000 to $200,000.
Altogether, the program has cost about $3.7 million between 1998 and 2009, according to Rick Kahn, the agency’s terrestrial section manager.
The biggest source of funding, about $1.9 million, came from Great Outdoors Colorado.
About $1.2 million came via donations, including from the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation and from Vail Associates. The rest came from the division’s license fee fund, Kahn said. Learn how the money was spent after the break …
Here’s how the money was spent:
— $1.1 million for the purchase, transportation, care, feeding and collars for the lynx (this also includes our initial costs to build the holding facility);
— $1.5 million for research into lynx survival, habitat use and prey studies (the largest percentage paid for temporary field crews);
— $1.05 million for salaries for permanent employees (over the 11 years); and,
— $.5 million for snowshoe hare research.
In the past year, more resources have been switched to snowshoe hare research with the understanding that it’s critical to learn more about the primary food source for lynx.
Kahn explained the changes to the program via e-mail:
“The recent reductions are twofold: One … is that we are no longer capturing, caring for and releasing lynx, the second is that we are no longer putting as many field crews out to get the habitat information and winter food habits information along with other basic life history information.
“We may potentially ramp up to some unknown level if the pilot ‘patch occupancy’ work we are conducting this winter appears to be a good method of obtaining information on occurrence and density. That study will hopefully allow us to have a good idea of what habitat is occupied in Colorado and at what density.”
“We are transitioning away from really intensive statewide monitoring,” Kahn said. Instead of sending out as many tracking crews, the recovery team will rely partly on hair snags and motion sensor cameras for data on habitat occupancy.
All the information compiled so far will be used to develop some level of statistical modeling to determine whether the state’s lynx population will be able to sustain itself.
Kahn said a big missing piece of the lynx puzzle is a national-level recovery plan that tries to quantify what is needed for the different geographical populations — in the northeast, the central region, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, the northwest and the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado. Finalization of that national plan is the first step toward “giving states relief from the Endangered Species Act,” Kahn said.
“A long-term frustration of states with the Endangered Species Act is the glacial pace of this process. We are 10-plus years post-listing and there is no recovery plan in place and no team in place to write such a plan,” Kahn said.
“It does not make sense for … Colorado to come out with specific statewide recovery goals at this time until the other federally mandated groups … have weighed in on what lynx recovery looks like in the Rocky Mountain area. Ideally, the CDOW would be asked and would be a significant part of the planning process for recovery in this area, as we have all the information on lynx and lynx habitat in the southern Rockies,” he said.
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