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Summit County: U.S. Forest Service hits pause button on several projects to assess the cumulative impacts to lynx

Finding room to roam for Colorado’s iconic wild cats

The Forest Service is trying to assess cumulative impacts to lynx in Summit County and developing tools for a long-term conservation strategy.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —The U.S. Forest Service has hit the pause button on a number of projects in Summit County while biologists assess how new trails, ski area improvements and a proposed new backcountry hut  affect threatened lynx.

Wildlife experts say that, along with a resident population of four lynx, they’re seeing more and more evidence that Summit County is an important crossroads for the wild cats as they move across the state and they want better information on cumulative impacts in all parts of the county south of I-70. And emerging new data may also help the agency shape a pro-active long-term conservation strategy.

“Projects that are already approved are not affected,” said acting Dillon District Ranger  Peech Keller, explaining that the cumulative effects analysis is for all projects that are in the planning phase. That includes proposed travel management implementation in the Golden Horseshoe, a proposed backcountry ski hut on Baldy Mountain, a proposal for trail and facility upgrades at Keystone Mountain, a proposed motorized trail on Tenderfoot Mountain, as well as permits for outfitters and guides.

“Essentially, every NEPA project is free to move forward except for the lynx assessment part,” she said, adding that she hopes the assessment will be done sometime in June.

“The information may help us design our projects and ameliorate effects … and help determine design criteria. It may help us look at what parameters of wildlife habitat we should be looking at when we analyze a project;  maybe they’re different from what we’re doing now,’ she said. Continue reading

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Reward for Summit lynx poaching information increased

PHOTO BY TANYA SHENK, COLORADO DIVISION OF WILDLIFE. Conservation groups have teamed up to offer a $5,300 reward for information on an illegal lynx killing near Heeney in mid-January.

Conservation groups pitch in $5,300 to increase the reward for information on illegal lynx killing near Green Mountain Reservoir in mid-January

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Conservation groups have teamed up to increase the reward for information on a lynx poaching near Heeney in mid-January. Six groups pooled money to raise the reward to a total of $5,800.

“The Colorado Division of Wildlife understands that help from the public is critical in solving these kinds of cases,” said  Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton. “We appreciate the assistance of these organizations in stepping forward to help us catch the person responsible for this crime.”

Wildlife biologists picked up a mortality signal from the lynx’s collar Jan. 18. They found the collar and nearby evidence that the cat was killed illegally. The carcass was missing.

The thirteen year-old female, was one of the first  lynx to be released in Colorado when a reintroduction effort started in 1999. Known to researchers as AK-99-F05, she was brought to Colorado from Alaska and was released in the San Juan Mountains.  Over the next several years, she ranged hundreds of miles across Colorado, living for periods of time near Silverton, in Rocky Mountain National Park, and above Cataract Lake in northern Summit County, and crossing Vail Pass at least once.

Tips on the lynx killing can be made anonymously through the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-877-265-6648. Continue reading

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