Feds to update oil and gas rules for wildlife refuges

A playa lake at the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

A playa lake at the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy USFWS.

USFWS taking public comment through Feb. 9

Staff Report

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to update 50-year-old regulations for oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System lands.

Last week the agency published a proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement that would require fossil fuel companies to use modern best management practices, especially as they relate to abandoned infrastructure and debris.

According to the USFWS, the new regs would reduce refuge impacts, including habitat loss and degradation, wildlife mortality and displacement, and other risks to ecological integrity. Continue reading

Twitter chat to explore global warming wildlife impacts

Colorado moose

A moose cow and calves grazing near Berthoud Pass, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Biologists take to social media for a Q&A

Staff Report

All over the world, global warming is affecting different types of animals, as well as entire ecosystems.

Scientists don’t yet understand exactly what will happen to all plants and animals, but after decades of warming temperatures, they have a pretty good idea of how some species will be affected.

Moose, for example, appear to be moving northward in response to warming temperatures as they seek to avoid infestations of bothersome and disease-carrying ticks. And salmon, which need cold and clear water, have also been affected by parasites in the Yukon River. Continue reading

Environment: Feds extend comment period on controversial Endangered Species Act changes


Can the Endangered Species Act be improved?

Proposed changes would make it harder for citizen groups to petition for protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — The feds will give the public an extra two months to weigh in on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, with a new comment deadline set for mid-September.

In May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service published draft regulations, saying that the changes are aimed at improving transparency and inclusiveness. The move to freshen up the Endangered Species Act reflects “advances in conservation biology and genetics, as well as recent court decisions interpreting the Act’s provisions.” Continue reading

Piece-mealing greater sage-grouse toward extinction

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Feds won’t protect Mono Basin sage-grouse under Endangered Species Act

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Efforts to preserve biologically important remnants of the vast western sagebrush sea were dealt another blow today, as as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it won’t protect greater sage-grouse in California and Nevada under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision is another step in piece-mealing greater sage-grouse toward extinction, according to conservation advocates and biologists. The voluntary conservation measures touted by the federal agency won’t do much to protect the so-called bi-state greater sage-grouse population from threats like hardrock mining, exurban development and livestock grazing. Continue reading

Feds say Northern Rockies wolf population remains strong

Heavy snow has pushed elk out of the high country, so the Colorado Division of Wildlife will try to divert them from important livestock feeding areas in the Yampa Valley. PHOTO COURTESY THE NATIONAL PAKR SERVICE.

A pack of wolves surrounds an ungulate in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Wildlife advocates unhappy with state-sanctioned hunts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wolves in the northern Rockies are more than holding their own, even in the face of increasing hunting pressure in some states.

As of December 31, 2014, there were at least at least 1,657 wolves in 282 packs (including 85 breeding pairs) in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which released its annual wolf recovery report this week. Continue reading

Feds update rules for Mexican gray wolves

Wildlife advocates say plans fall short of what’s needed for recovery of the species

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

FRISCO — Federal biologists said this week that their updated plans for endangered Mexican gray wolves will help protect the predators while respecting the needs of local communities, but conservation advocates will nevertheless fight at least parts of the new rule.

“This revision of the experimental population rule provides Mexican wolves the space they need to establish a larger and more genetically divers​e​ population – a population that can meaningfully contribute to the subspecies’ recovery,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. Continue reading

Conservation groups to sue feds over rare plants

Legal challenge says rare wildflowers in northwestern Colorado face threat from fossil fuel development despite voluntary conservation deal


A patchwork of conservation areas may not be enough to protect rare Colorado wildflowers from extinction as fossil fuel exploitation broadens in the Green River Basin.

The rare Graham's penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

The rare Graham’s penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The fate of two rare plants in western Colorado and eastern Utah will likely once again rest in the hands of a federal judge, as a coalition of conservation groups said they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to deny Endangered Species Act protection to the White River and Graham’s beardtongue.

The plants grow only across a few thousand acres, scattered across the same badlands where fossil fuel drillers are expanding their footprint. A voluntary conservation deal between the USFWS and the Bureau of Land Management, adopted last summer, doesn’t go far enough to protect the plants, conservation advocates said in their formal notice of intent to sue. Continue reading


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