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Feds launch greater sage-grouse website

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Dwindling birds caught in a tangled web of science and politics

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a couple of weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $25 million in funding for greater sage-grouse conservation in California and Nevada, the federal government took another step in the long-running process to protect the dwindling birds by launching a new website.

Coordinated by three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service information specialists, the new site emphasizes the collaborative nature of the conservation effort to protect the birds and their oft-overlooked sage-steppe habitat.

The scruffy badlands that stretch patchily between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada may look empty, but there’s more than meets the eye, the USFWS explains on the new site’s intro page. Sage may dominate big slices of the landscape, but the ecosystem is threatened because not much of it is protected. Continue reading

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Morning photo: Colorado sunset

Can you feel it?

A Bierstadt moment in Colorado.

A Bierstadt moment in Colorado.

FRISCO — We cruised down to one of our favorite Gore Range overlooks a couple of days ago on an afternoon when the clouds looked promising (from a photography standpoint) and weren’t disappointed. OK, so we didn’t get a firecracker sky, but some of the subtle glows that played across the craggy summits of the peaks were extraordinary. Here’s  a sample of the shots we got, and there are more Summit County nature and landscape images available for purchase at our online Fine Art America gallery. Support the arts and independent journalism with your purchase of prints or notecards! Continue reading

Morning photo: Lupine love!

Wildflower magic

Lupines against the backdrop of shimmering DIllon Reservoir in Frisco, Colorado.

Lupines against the backdrop of shimmering DIllon Reservoir in Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — As the Colorado wildflower season gets under way, I thought I would feature a set focusing on lupines, one of the most ubiquitous species. Lupines grow around the world, from sea level up into the high alpine zone — not to mention our beloved garden varieties. Each variety showing adaptations to their local environment. For example, lupines that grow in the craggy high country have tiny flowers that remain hidden low down in clumps of leaves that offer some shelter from the wind and extreme temperatures. What I haven’t been able to figure out is why the genus got a name that apparently has something to do with the Latin root word for wolves (Lupus). Perhaps in the early days, when people were naming plants, lupine habitat was associated with areas were wolves live, but that’s pure speculation on my part. Continue reading

Morning photo: Rocky Mountain love …

Weekend shots

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Tenderfoot boulder.

FRISCO — Get up early, grab the camera, load up the dogs … sounds routine, doesn’t it? But the reality is, you never know what you’re going to find. Like Sunday, when I waited and waited, watching the clouds, but unsure if the sunrise was really going to light up the sky. By the time I started along the Dam Road I could see that the sky would be dramatic, not with pinks and oranges, but with light and shadow, which can really help give pictures some depth. And I threw the sculling shot into the mix just because I love the color and the composition! Please have a look at our online Fine Art America gallery for more great Rocky Mountain nature and landscape image. Continue reading

Report: Local measures won’t save sage grouse

Gunnison sage-grouse

A male Gunnison sage-grouse struts as part of its spring mating ritual. Photo courtesy BLM.

Federal protections needed to protect dwindling Gunnison sage-grouse

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new report by conservation biologists suggests that local and state-based measures to protect Gunnison sage-grouse won’t prevent the species from sliding toward extinction.

With only about 5,000 remaining birds, the population is already at a high risk, and only strict federal conservation measures under the Endangered Species Act will help, according to Megan Mueller, a senior conservation biologist with Rocky Mountain Wild.

The once-abundant species has dwindled dramatically as its habitat has been fragmented by energy and community development, as well as over-grazing. Continue reading

How much will a critical habitat designation for lynx cost?

New lynx conservation studies posted for public comment

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New federal documents spell out how a critical habitat designation for lynx could affect activities on federally managed lands.

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Lynx kitten in Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/Colorado Division of Wildlife.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Designating 41,000 square miles of critical habitat for lynx in the northern Rocky Mountains won’t have a huge economic impact, federal biologists said last week as they took another step toward finalizing conservation measures for the threatened wild cat. Most costs associated with lynx conservation will be on the administrative side, as the critical habitat designation would result in the need for more coordination among federal agencies. Visit this Federal Register page to view all the documents and comment.

Two draft studies examining the effects of the proposed critical habitat designation in Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming were posted July 21 in the Federal Register for public comment. The latest version of the long-contested proposal includes revised critical habitat maps  “based on where the best science indicates the habitat could support lynx populations over time,” but includes only areas where lynx populations already exist” — with the exception of Colorado. Continue reading

Morning photo: Summer set

Short and sweet!

Solstice sunset in Colorado.

Solstice sunset in Colorado.

FRISCO —Summer is short and sweet in the Colorado high country, marked by the sudden emergence of wildflowers where there was snow just days before. So break out the bikes, flip-flops and camping gear and take advantage of the long days and the few nights of the year when temps don’t drop below the freezing mark. Continue reading

Morning photo: Grab-bag

Some photo fun

If you thought lichen only lives on rocks, guess again. Here’s a patch growing on a gnarly old cottonwood tree near the base of Dillon Dam. Check out the rest of this Instagram set. The square-format images show well in the blog column, and you can also visit our online gallery at Fine Art America to view and buy high quality prints and greeting cards. Continue reading

What does El Niño mean for Colorado?

Wet summer possible across much of Colorado

Staff Report

FRISCO — El Nino may bring above average rainfall to Colorado this summer, Grand Junction-based forecasters with the National Weather Service said in their latest update. The cyclical shift in Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures affects the path of moisture moving off the Pacific and across the western U.S.

Visit NOAA’s El Niño page, where weather experts are maintaining an El Niño blog to track the developing pattern.

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NOAA maps show a classic El Niño pattern with a streak of warmer-than-average sea surface temps extending along the equator from the South American coast westward.

Based on computer model projections and comparisons with past years under similar emerging El Niño conditions, probabilities are tilted toward above-average precipitation for much of the summer, especially in late summer going into early autumn.

The biggest effects of El Niño are often felt during the winter months, but right now it’s unclear how strong this year’s El Niño will be or how long it will persist. Looking at the series of most recent El Niños, forecasters detect an overall trend of drier than average conditions, with periods of good snowfall scattered throughout the winter months.

Strong storms in late fall can put down a good base in the Colorado mountains, but El Niño winters are also often marked by long spells of dry weather in between stormy patterns.

 

 

Morning photo: Mountain colors

All of a sudden …

Wild iris in full bloom.

Wild iris in full bloom.

FRISCO — And just like that, it’s all about summer in the high country, wildflowers bursting madly forth in bloom, brimming lakes and reservoirs and all sorts of moody thunderstorm light in the evenings, with tinted sunshine slanting through the dissipating clouds. Winter may have it’s subtle beauties, but many summer photo sessions are “in your face” kind of events, where a half dozen bright and shiny things are competing for your attention. Continue reading

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