Court showdown likely in Wolf Creek land swap battle

A map included in the feasibilty analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

A map included in the feasibilty analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

Under pressure from billionaire developer, Forest Service keeps digging itself into a deeper hole

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Conservation advocates in Colorado are bracing for a legal battle with the U.S. Forest Service after the agency last week stayed on course to approve a controversial land exchange that would enable a massive real estate development in the relatively untouched forests around Wolf Creek Pass.

A regional Forest Service officials rejected a series of objections to the swap, finding that the approval didn’t violate any federal laws or agency regulations, but conservation groups say they have obtained documents showing that Maribeth Gustafson, the regional forester who reviewed the objections, may have a conflict of interest because she participated in the process leading to the approval. Continue reading

Wildlife: Are lynx holding their own?

Feds conducting five-year status review

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Federal biologists are compiling new information about lynx in the United States as part of a five-year review. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Almost 15 years after listing lynx as a threatened species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still hasn’t developed a recovery plan for the snow-loving cats, but a required five-year status review currently under way may help the process.

The review is aimed at clarifying the extent, magnitude, and nature of the threats to lynx so that recovery planning can target those specific threats. When lynx were originally listed in 2000, federal biologists said the lack of adequate regulations on public lands was the main threat to the predators. Continue reading

Wildlife: Colorado launches new lynx monitoring effort

A radio-collared lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy CPW.

A radio-collared lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy CPW.

SW Colorado field project will assess habitat occupancy, population trends

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado biologists have launched an ambitious monitoring program aimed at learning whether the state’s population of reintroduced and native-born lynx is holding steady.

The monitoring will cover more than 5,000 miles in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado, including six wilderness areas: Weminuche, Uncompahgre, Lizard Head, Powderhorn, La Garita Mount Sneffels, and South San Juan. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates say new Maine trapping plan is a bad deal for threatened Canada lynx

13 lynx have been caught in traps the past month; activists say more oversight is needed to protect federally listed cats

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A lynx on the prowl in the forest. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new trapping plan approved by state and federal officials in Maine doesn’t do enough to protect endangered lynx, according to wildlife advocates. Instead of relying on reports from trappers in the field, activists said they want to see more active enforcement and inspections of trapping operations.

The plan, part of the state’s predator control program, was approved less than a month into the state’s trapping season, during which 13 lynx have already been reported captured. All the cats were released alive, but two required veterinary treatment for injured toes. A previous study of radio-collared lynx in Maine showed that after being caught by trappers, only three of six lynx survived a month. 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

Biodiversity: UK biologists consider lynx restoration

Colorado's lynx restoration program has yielded valuable research that may help scientists in other countries with similar efforts. Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Colorado’s lynx restoration program has yielded valuable research that may help scientists in other countries with similar efforts. Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Biologists eye predator restoration to try and rebalance ecosystems

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Biologists in the UK say they might be able to use some of the lynx science compiled in Colorado and other areas as they plan for a possible reintroduction of Eurasian lynx in Cairngorn National Park.

In a draft report focusing on ecosystem restoration, scientists identified lynx as one of the species that help restore ecological balance in a system that doesn’t have any predators. Without them, deer have been running rampant and degrading forested areas.

Lynx disappeared from the British Isles about 1,000 years ago, partially because most of their habitat was destroyed, but reforestation in the past few centuries means there are now areas where the wild cats could find breeding and foraging habitat. The wild cats have already been reintroduced in Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Slovakia and France. Continue reading

Federal judge says Forest Service must consider critical habitat designations in regional forest plan guidance for lynx

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Federal agencies rebuked for violating Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Decision will trigger new reviews of forest plans and projects in northern Rockies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service has once again been called out for failing to live up to its legal obligations to protect endangered species, this time by a federal judge in Montana, who ruled last week that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a regional forest plan amendment.

Dana L. Christensen, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the State of Montana, ordered the Forest Service to re-initiate consultation, but did not block any specific projects on the affected forests, saying that plaintiffs couldn’t show any “irreparable harm.” Continue reading

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