Beetle-killed lodgepole forests deemed to be unsuitable habitat for threatened cats.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — U.S. Forest Service biologists said the massive die-off of lodgepole pine forests means they have to re-map habitat for threatened Canada lynx across the White River National Forest.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency charged with ensuring the recovery of animals and plants on the endangered species list, has declared that the beetle-killed forests can’t be considered suitable habitat for the rare cats.
“Our maps are based on data from 2002,” said Glenwood Springs-based Wendy McGuire, chief biologist for the forest. Since then, huge tracts of lodgepole have succumbed to mountain pine beetles. “We are looking at a forest-wide re-assessment of lynx habitat based on mountain pine beetles,” she said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has said that, once the over-story dies, the habitat can no longer be considered suitable. It makes a huge difference on our lynx habitat,” McGuire said, adding that the Forest Service hopes to complete the project by October.
Once the new maps are done, the results will be reviewed by the regional forest service office and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, McGuire said, explaining that the White River forest will need concurrence from its sister agency before adopting the new maps.
“We’ll have a much better set of realistic dates,” McGuire said.
What’s not clear at this point is how the re-mapping will affect pending projects on the White River forest, including release of the long-awaited travel management plan, which establishes trail use across the forest, as well as a proposal to add lift-served skiing on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area.
The Forest Service assesses the impacts of various proposals by using plots of land called lynx analysis units, each of which represents a theoretical home range for one of the cats. McGuire said the agency might conceivably be able to complete the re-mapping around the Peak 6 area first in order to keep the environmental review process for the ski area project on track.
Filed under: Colorado Division of Wildlife, endangered species, Environment, forests, Summit County Colorado, wildlife Tagged: | beetle kill, lodgepole pines, lynx, lynx habitat, lynx habitat maps, Summit County, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, White River National Forest