Watchdogs say Western Governors’ Association is trying to weaken endangered species protections


Not much love for endangered species like lynx at a recent Western Governors’ Association workshop. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Recent workshop focused on industry gripes

Staff Report

For the apparent lack of anything productive to do, the Western Governors’s Association is apparently trying to cook up new ways to weaken the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of developers and extractive industries.

The association held a workshop last week, ostensibly to “encourage bipartisan conversations to improve the Endangered Species Act,” but that is just more Orwellian doublespeak, according to watchdog groups, who pointed out that speakers during the meeting “overwhelmingly represented industries and political interests opposed to protections for endangered species.” Continue reading

How does ecotourism affect ecosystems?

Researchers urge caution as visitation to wildlife areas booms

A seal is far outnumbered by tourists on the shores of Paulet Island, along the Antarctic Peninsula. @bberwyn photo.

A seal is far outnumbered by tourists on the shores of Paulet Island, along the Antarctic Peninsula. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Ecotourism has been hailed as a sustainable economic driver and a force for environmental conservation, but a new report says we also need to account for the possible adverse effects of visitation to relatively wild spaces.

In a new report published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, researchers said all of those interactions between wild animals and friendly ecotourists eager to snap their pictures may inadvertently put some animals at greater risk of being eaten. Continue reading

Wolf advocates push for more releases in Gila Wilderness

Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS

More releases of wolves are needed to genetically bolster the population in the wild. Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS.

Letter to feds points out dangers of ‘genetic bottleneck’

Staff Report

Political resistance at the state level shouldn’t deter federal biologists from releasing more Mexican gray wolves into the wild, according to conservation activists, who say that such releases are needed to prevent the wild population from becoming genetically crippled.

In a letter to federal officials, biologists and wildlife advocates urged Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to release at least five more packs of wolves into  the Gila National Forest in New Mexico through the end of this year and into 2016.

The “perilously low” number of breeding pairs makes the wolf population vulnerable to inbreeding depression that could send the population into a downward spiral, more than 40 biologists and conservation groups warned in the Oct. 8 letter. Continue reading

Wildlife thrives around Chernobyl disaster site

‘This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation … are a lot worse’

A family of moose roams free in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Credit Valeriy Yurko/Polessye State Radioecological Reserve

A family of moose in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Credit: Valeriy Yurko/Polessye State Radioecological Reserve.

Staff Report

Wildlife is thriving in the area around Chernobyl, researchers said in a new study tracking the number of moose, roe deer, red deer, wild boar and wolves in the 1,621-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The census data shows there are seven times as many wolves in the area than in nearby uncontaminated reserves, along with growing populations of other species. The area was cleared of humans after a 1986 nuclear reactor disaster that polluted the immediate area, as well as distant fallout zones, with radioactive particles.

“This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming and forestry, are a lot worse,” said Jim Smith, a professor of environmental science at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. Continue reading

Environment: Why are Colorado wildlife biologists apologizing for the energy industry?


Mule deer populations in northwest Colorado have taken a bit hit from energy development

‘Just pointing fingers at the energy industry is not a helpful solution to this difficult issue’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A recent study showing that energy development in northwest Colorado significantly affects wildlife habitat drew national attention, and a curious reaction from Colorado’s wildlife agency, which seemed to be apologizing on behalf of the energy industry.

The study showed that the region’s dwindling mule deer population shies well away from active drilling, to a distance of at least 800 meters. Deer displayed more nuanced responses to other infrastructure, avoiding pads with active production and roads to a greater degree during the day than night.

When they added up the impacts, the researchers found that the responses equate to alteration of mule deer behavior by human development in more than 50 percent of the critical winter range in the study area during the day and over 25 percent at night. Continue reading

Appeals court upholds Colorado poaching conviction

Former Meeker outfitter who was convicted of baiting deer and elk with salt claimed his confession was coerced

Bull elk in morning sun, Rocky Mountain National Park.

A grazing bull elk in northern Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A convicted northern Colorado poacher will remain in prison after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last week affirming the 41-month prison sentence and fines the former outfitter received in early 2013 for illegally baiting deer and elk with salt.

Dennis Eugene Rodebaugh, 73, of Meeker, Colorado, had appealed his conviction based on a series of legal technicalities, claiming that his confession was involuntary. The appeals court denied those claims after reviewing records of the investigation and questioning by investigators.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators, between 2002 and 2007, Rodebaugh and an associate used large quantities of salt to attract elk and mule deer to an area in the White River National Forest where he had installed tree stands, enabling their clients to easily kill the animals. Continue reading

Popular Waterton Canyon recreation area near Denver closed after bear chases cyclist

American black bears are notorious scavengers, and their habit of seeking out human food nearly always ends badly. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

American black bears are notorious scavengers, and their habit of seeking out human food nearly always ends badly. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Wildlife managers have closed several areas this summer due to bear activity and to avoid unwanted encounters

Staff Report

FRISCO — After earlier summer closures of popular national forest areas due to close encounters with bears, Denver Water and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have decided to close Waterton Canyon to public recreation until further notice — for the same reason.

According to a release from Denver Water, there are two sows, each with twin cubs, and other bears actively foraging in the canyon. Friday afternoon, a biker was chased by a bear in the canyon. No one was injured. Continue reading


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