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Environment: Cows versus greater sage-grouse?

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Greater sage-grouse need tall grass for nesting. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Study shows livestock grazing a key factor in greater sage-grouse decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by sage grouse scientists confirms that the height of grass cover in nesting habitat is a key factor in determining greater sage grouse nest success.

The findings suggest that better grazing management is needed to protect the threatened birds. Cattle eat native vegetation that sage grouse require for hiding their nests from predators. Continue reading

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Environment: Tuesday roundup

Independent journalism in western Colorado

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Big issues at the climate talks in Lima, Peru.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — If you primarily read this Summit Voice feed, which has been climate focused recently, you may have missed a few other recent stories I’ve done for the Colorado Independent. The past couple of weeks I’ve  covered issues in western Colorado, including fossil fuel development, public lands protection and even the ski industry from time to time, including this week’s story about a Colorado Supreme Court case. Continue reading

Humble fungi may aid whitebark pine recovery

PHOTO COURTESY USFS/RICHARD SNIEZKO

Can mushrooms help save whitebark pines? Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Scientists report success in treating seedlings with mushroom spores

Staff Report

FRISCO — High-elevation whitebark pines are under the gun in the northern Rockies. White pine blister rust, an invasive fungus, and pine beetles have combined to drive the species toward extinction.

But scientists trying to recover the species say that a humble mushroom could help their efforts. A three-year experiment shows a 10 to 15 percent increase in the survival rate of whitebark pine seedlings when Siberian slippery jack spores are injected into the soil around them. The injection takes place in nurseries before the seedlings are transplanted in the mountains. Continue reading

Environment: Defense bill riders may undermine greater sage-grouse conservation efforts

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More political wrangling over greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USGS.

Ranching loopholes proposed

Staff Report

FRISCO — In the West, many eyes are on a defense spending bill pending in Congress, which may include amendments that would exempt ranchers from regulations aimed at protecting greater sage-grouse and potentially strip agencies of funding for sage grouse conservation.

With a little lobbying, the western livestock industry managed to attached the Grazing Improvement Act” into the bill (§3023). Continue reading

Collaborative conservation plan eyed for Wyoming toad

A Wyoming toad. Photo via USFWS.

A Wyoming toad. Photo via USFWS.

Voluntary conservation easements would protect habitat and traditional land use

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal biologists are seeking input on a draft plan to protect habitat for the endangered Wyoming toad. The species was common in the Laramie plains area through the 1970s, when populations crashed, leading to an endangered species listing in 1984.

 

The proposed conservation would enable the USFWS to buy conservation easements and limited fee-title lands from willing sellers in the Southern Laramie River area whose lands provide important habitat for the endangered Wyoming toad and a variety of other fish and wildlife resources. Continue reading

Biodiversity: 20-year battle over Montana’s Arctic grayling headed back to court

An Arctic grayling in the Gulkana River, Paxson, Alaska. Photo courtesy USGS.

An Arctic grayling in the Gulkana River, Paxson, Alaska. Photo courtesy USGS.

Conservation groups say the river fish needs endangered species protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wrangling over the fate Montana’s Arctic grayling will continue in court, as conservation groups this week challenged a federal finding that the fish don’t need Endangered Species Act protection.

Graylings are part of the salmon family, native to cold freshwater streams and rivers across Canada and Alaska, with a genetically distinct population in Montana that was nearly wiped out by the 1970s. Continue reading

Climate: Rocky Mountain glacier meltdown threatens rare stone fly and other aquatic insects

‘Soon there will be nowhere left for the stonefly to go’

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This rare stonefly is unlikely to survive the meltdown of Glacier National Park. Photo courtesy USGS.

FRISCO — Scientists say a rare aquatic insect, found only in Glacier National Park, is unlikely to survive the meltdown of the region’s glaciers.

In a new study published in Freshwater Science, U.S. Geological Survey researchers show the shrinking habitat of the western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) associated with glacial recession using data spanning from 1960 – 2012. The western glacier stonefly is only found in Glacier National Park and was first identified in streams there in 1963. Continue reading

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