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

Vail bails on Peak 6 skiing, plans EpicWildlife sanctuary

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Lynx kittens will have the run of Peak 6 as it becomes Colorado’s biggest wildlife sanctuary.

APRIL FOOLS!!!

Wolverine reintroduction part of the plan for new nature preserve

By Snob Beerwhine

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a surprise move, Colorado’s biggest ski company announced April 1 that it will not pursue the Peak 6 ski area expansion after all. Instead, Breckenridge ski area and the town will expand the Cucumber Gulch preserve into a full-fledged wildlife sanctuary encompassing part of the Tenmile Range from the valley bottom up to the ridgeline.

With sponsorship of the ski area, the new preserve will be called EpicWildlife, set aside for lynx, elk, moose and boreal toads. Partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Breckenridge also plans to reintroduce wolverines to the area, where they will find great habitat in the alpine cirques and couloirs along the crest. Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges lynx mistakes in Breckenridge Ski Area’s Peak 6 expansion plan

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A transplanted Canada lynx watches a Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/ Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Federal approval missed a key step in addressing requirements of Endangered Species Act

Click here to read all Summit Voice Peak 6 stories

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal biologists have acknowledged that they left out a key step in their approval of the proposed Peak 6 ski area expansion at Breckenridge, a project that would degrade a patch of lynx habitat in the Tenmile Range.

“We reviewed the … biological opinion, and we agree that our incidental take statement lacks a meaningful mechanism to reinitiate consultation if the project exceeds the anticipated incidental take,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Western Colorado Supervisor Patricia Gelatt wrote in a March 6 letter responding to a formal legal notice from Rocky Mountain Wild and the Blue River Group of the Sierra Club.

Gelatt said her agency plans to meet with the Forest Service and modify its biological opinion to address the deficiencies before the Notice of Intent expires on April 19, but she didn’t explain how agency biologists missed including the required regulatory mechanisms after discussing the expansion with the Forest Service for several years. Continue reading

Colorado: Lynx study expanded to Loveland Pass

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Drop-off box for GPS units at Loveland Pass.

Research to help conservation and recreation planning efforts

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A multi-year Forest Service study aimed at better understanding how lynx react to human recreational activities was expanded to new areas in Colorado this year, including Loveland Pass, Leadville and Telluride.

Previous efforts have focused on the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, where  scientists captured lynx and fitted them with collars to transmit GPS data. At the same time, the Forest Service researchers asked skiers and snowmobilers to take GPS transmitters along on their excursions.

A thorough analysis of the data will help land managers make science-based decisions about how to allocate resources as they balance the demand for recreation with a mandate to protect habitat for rare animals like lynx, protected under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Colorado ski industry should embrace wolverine restoration

Bob Berwyn.

Bob Berwyn.

Opinion: Obstructing conservation runs counter the interest of most skiers

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The upcoming listing of North American wolverines as an endangered or threatened species has huge implications for Colorado, and also gives the Colorado ski industry a chance to work off some of the bad karma it earned for opposing the reintroduction of lynx to the mountains of our state.

Wolverines are largest member of the weasel family and need rugged alpine terrain covered with deep snow to reproduce. Sometime soon, within the next few weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce its listing decision, with the best available science suggesting that global warming is likely to reduce habitat for denning and breeding to the point that it will threaten the existence of the species.

That’s were Colorado comes in. With more high-elevation terrain than any other state in the Rockies, and plenty of steep, remote brush- and rock-strewn avalanche paths, our mountains could be a climate refuge for the animals, according to conservation biologists working on recovery plans for the rare critter. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Saving lynx in Summit County

New lynx assessment could affect forest management and recreation planning; ski ares excluded from conservation zone

Mapping a lynx conservation strategy in Summit County. Courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife map shows habitat use by 118 lynx, with yellow representing low use, orange showing moderate use and blue showing high use.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service biologists have identified a lynx conservation zone in southern Summit County where they hope to preserve and enhance as much lynx habitat as possible. The mapping was done after an assessment concluded that cumulative effects in the area may be “approaching or exceeding impact thresholds.”

Lynx tracking by Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists shows that Summit County is a critical area for lynx dispersing north from core habitat areas in the eastern San Juans. That trend could increase, as spruce beetles have devastated large swaths of favored lynx habitat in the southwestern part of the state.

Additionally, Summit County has several resident lynx. Denning females with kittens have been documented, so protecting movement areas and improving habitat could ensure the persistence of those lynx, as required by the Endangered Species Act.

“Summit County is right in the middle of it all … it’s pretty compelling. We have a lot of data to work with and it was time to pull it together, given Peak 6, and knowing all the other projects that were coming up,” said Dillon District Forest Service biologist Ashley Nettles. Continue reading

Montana faces lawsuit over lynx impacts from trapping

A lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

At least four lynx have been killed by traps intended for other species

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A ski area expansion like Peak 6 might displace one or two lynx, but that’s nothing compared to the direct mortality that has occurred from legal trapping in Montana.

At least nine lynx have been caught in traps since the species was listed in 2000 and four are known to have died — as a result, four conservation groups say they will sue the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission for permitting the trapping.

“Montana has failed to safeguard lynx from the cruel vicissitudes of traps and snares, and that has resulted in the death and impairment of several animals, which impedes lynx recovery,” said Wendy Keefover, carnivore protection program director for WildEarth Guardians. Continue reading

Colorado: Highway lynx crossings documented

Study tracks north-south movement with more than 10 years of data

“Due to the poor precision of telemetry location estimates and the amount of time elapsed between locations, the straight line movement paths depicted in this analysis DO NOT represent exact or even approximate locations where lynx crossed I-70.” ~ Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Continue reading

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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