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But first, here’s what we’ve been up to most recently:
- Despite coronavirus, the subsequent layoffs at our partner organization, the inability to train new volunteers, rabbit hemorrhagic disease that meant we had to create new protocols for our returning volunteers to safely collect data while preventing the spread of this disease to pikas, and an unprecedented wildfire season across some of our study areas, we had an incredibly successful season in our Front Range Pika Project! We developed a new Pika Partners website, ground-truthed 40 new sites in the Rocky Mountain National Park and White River National Forest, conducted 186 surveys across all three project areas, and created the long-awaited Pika Patrol app that will be available soon in the Google Play Store! To help fund this work in 2021, we are currently offering symbolic naming rights to pikas and offering pika adoptions. Adoptees get an adorable plush pika (filled with environmentally-friendly recycled plastic) and an adoption e-certificate.
- We’re continuing our protection of Wolf Creek Pass. We are up against the unlimited resources of Texas billionaire Red McCombs in the battle to protect Wolf Creek Pass from the “village.” But Red McCombs is up against our team of dedicated staff and tenacious supporters who submitted hundreds of objections to the Village at Wolf Creek Road Access Project in 2018. We completed the briefing on our legal challenge to the Forest Service’s decision to provide the developers with increased access to their property. That decision was based on a flawed environmental analysis that the court has previously ruled “an artful dodge” of the Service’s responsibility to protect forest resources. We believe we have a very good chance of winning this case, but while we wait for the judge to issue an order (or call for oral arguments), we must be preparing for the next steps.
- We’re continuing to work to connect landscapes in our region. In 2020, a feasibility study was completed by Wood Engineering, which resulted in preliminary engineering designs for three proposed crossing structures on East Vail Pass! These proposed structures, which include an overpass and two underpasses, will reconnect this important landscape for a wide variety of wildlife species, including the elusive Canada lynx. In 2018, we completed our Wild I-70 Audio Tour to help people understand the importance of wildlife crossing structures along Vail Pass and we’ve had nearly 2,000 people sign our I Support Wildlife Crossing Structures petition to date! We have also secured seed funding from Vail Resorts to begin the design and engineering process for crossing structures on east Vail Pass.
- We are currently working on launching two new community science programs. The first is Colorado Bat Watch! Little is currently known about the population status of most species of bats in Colorado. We partnered with the United States Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Natural Heritage Program, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, and Conejos Clean Water, with funding from the US Forest Service Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program and Patagonia, to launch the Colorado Bat Watch Program. This program will use community scientists to collect data that will enable these agencies to monitor bat species over time and better understand the impacts of WNS and other threats on local bat populations.
- The second is Go Big! Central Colorado Bighorn Sheep Survey. The Central Colorado Bighorn Sheep Survey engages the community in recording observations of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, domestic sheep, and domestic goats in Central Colorado. The data collected by volunteers participating in the project will inform conservation strategies for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in Central Colorado.
- On January 15, 2021, the new rules regulating the development of oil and gas in Colorado went into effect. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission developed these regulations to identify where companies can drill and minimize impact to wildlife migration corridors, critical habitats, wetlands, and watersheds. Alison was a huge part of that effort, testifying during the open comment periods and she made an interactive story map explaining the areas that are now protected and the impact on four of Colorado’s iconic wildlife species! Alison also did a number of speaking engagements explaining the map and changes. Here’s a recording of the most recent one, a lunch and learn from February 11.
- We’ve partnered with our friends at Western Environmental Law Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection to protect our public lands and challenge William Perry Pendley’s policies. Specifically, our group of conservation organizations are suing to overturn nine of Pendley’s decisions made while he was illegally running the interior. If our group is successful, the case could knock out bad policy on 6.5 million acres of public land and protect Gunnison and greater sage-grouse!
- We joined our friends at Western Watersheds Project yesterday to notify the Forest Service of our intent to sue the agency for violations of the Endangered Species Act arising from a recent management plan amendment for the Thunder Basin National Grassland that eliminates habitat previously designated for the recovery of black-footed ferrets. The amendment also expands poisoning and shooting of prairie dogs – a keystone species – at the request of the livestock industry and the State of Wyoming.
- We have teamed up with our friend at San Juan Citizens Alliance for the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour! This year, it’s gone virtual! Travel to the most remote corners of the world, dive into daring expeditions, and celebrate some of the most remarkable outdoor achievements, all from the comfort of your living room. This year’s tour will feature a collection of the most inspiring action, environmental, and adventure films, curated into online programs to be enjoyed right from home. Use our affiliate link to purchase the films you want to see. New film packages will become available until October 24, so be sure to check back frequently to see what’s new!
Those are the highlights of our major programs currently. If you would like to get involved in any of them, please do let us know! We definitely have volunteer opportunities. We also have opportunities to support our work by becoming a donor or joining our monthly donors in the Super Species Squad.
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