We send out news periodically (usually one every month or every other month). Be sure to add Chris_Talbot_Heindl@mail.vresp.com to your approved contacts so you can be sure to see our emails.
But first, here’s what we’ve been up to most recently:
- After a decade of leading Rocky Mountain Wild and accomplishing amazing feats, Tehri Parker retired as Executive Director. Rocky Mountain Wild staff are now reenvisioning what the future of the organization may look like.
- As part of this transition, we are taking a critical look at our current employee manual and making edits to make it more just and equitable. Consider supporting this work with a donation to our transition fundraiser! Funds generously donated have so far been used to take The HR Shop’s Unconscious Bias in the Hiring Process course, and send Alison and Chris to a legal clinic to have a lawyer review and suggest edits to the draft manual. The next big ticket item is having a thorough review and compliance audit of the draft manual.
Colorado Pika Project
- The Colorado Pika Project (CPP) engages community scientists to conserve the American pika and safeguard the health of alpine ecosystems in Colorado. Volunteer community scientists (known as Pika Patrollers) hike to high-altitude field sites and collect data on the presence of pikas and the characteristics of their habitat. Our community scientists have studied some of these sites for a decade! Their research provides critical data to land managers and researchers about the distribution and habitat use of pika. Through the dedication of CPP volunteers, we track how climate change impacts pika and find solutions to any potential threats. In fact, data collected by our community scientists have already been used in an analysis and article you can read here! In 2022, we engaged over 240 community scientists. Together, they surveyed 145 sites, contributing 2,287 hours to the project and hiking 2,026 miles! If you are interested in volunteering as a community scientist, visit our Pika Partners website! To help fund this work in 2023, we are currently offering pika adoptions. Adoptees receive an adorable plush pika and an adoption e-certificate.
- On World Wildlife Day 2022, we launched a new direct action with our partners at Southern Plains Land Trust to benefit pikas and bison, and both alpine and prairie ecosystems. Pikas and alpine ecosystems are at-risk from climate change. Bison and other priarie are losing their habitat. But you can help solve both of these problems with one action! Donate to the Colorado Carbon Offset Partnership. Do your part to combat the climate crisis and secure a future for Colorado’s wildlife by donating to offset all or part of your carbon footprint to protect pikas, bison, prairies, and people from climate change. Reduce what you can and offset the rest.
- On September 26, 2022 we launched the Pika Patrol mobile app! This app will help the community and scientists alike to track observations and monitor populations of the climate-sensitive American pika. By making it easier for hikers, community members, and visitors to record pika observations, we can gather even more data on this charismatic mountain dweller!
Colorado Corridors Project
- We’re connecting landscapes in our region. In 2020, Wood Engineering completed a feasibility study, 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.
- As our part of this project, we conduct wildlife monitoring using remote triggered cameras on East Vail Pass. In 2021, we expanded our monitoring project to cover all three sites and collected more than 150,000 photos of wildlife near the road (including our first photo of bighorn sheep)!
- On August 2022, Summit County Safe Passages, the collaboration we’re part of that works to create safe crossings for wildlife in Summit County, officially launched a campaign for the new I-70 wildlife crossings on East Vail Pass!
- In the Fall of 2022, the I-70 East Vail Pass Wildlife Crossings Project received $750K from SB22-151, Safe Crossings for Colorado Wildlife and Motorists. SB22-151 established the Colorado wildlife safe passages fund within the state treasury and allocated $5 million to the fund in its first year. The $750K allotted to East Vail Pass will be combined with additional funding to begin the initial project design phase and stimulate additional funding for subsequent phases of design and construction. This is a really critical milestone in our effort to construct wildlife crossings on East Vail Pass.
Oil and Gas
- On February 11, 2022, we won two lawsuits challenging oil and gas leasing in critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. Senior U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane overturned the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s 2017 and 2018 decisions to lease public land in Southwest Colorado for oil and gas development on the grounds that development in the area could harm the Gunnison sage-grouse!
- Rocky Mountain Wild screens each and every oil and gas lease sale in our region and identifies conflicts between the proposed parcels and important wildlife wilderness, and other resource values. We provide these screens and directions so that other organizations and community members can submit their public comments or protests to get affected areas removed from the proposed parcels list. Over the years, we have helped defer more than 3 million acres of public land from oil and gas development! Send your comments to the Bureau of Land Management regarding the May 2023 New Mexico Oil and Gas Lease Sale (comments due February 6). Send your comments to the Bureau of Land Management regarding the June 2023 Montana Oil and Gas Lease Sale (comments due February 9).
Wolf Creek Pass
- We’re protecting Wolf Creek Pass from 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 at various stages of the project.
- In May 2017, the late Judge Matsch ruled in our favor on numerous grounds and set aside the Service’s decision for a land exchange. The Forest Service and Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture (LMJV) sought dismissal of that case and vaguely claimed the land exchange was unwound. We objected to this approach and Judge Kane agreed that the evidence in the record did not support a finding that the status quo had been restored. We participated in several rounds of briefing and additional actions to force the Service and LMJV to clarify, document, and confirm the unwinding of the land exchange.
- On December 14, 2021, the Court formalized the status quo prior to the land exchange, declaring and confirming the decision and land exchange are void ab initio. This decision says nothing about the 2018 Record of Decision that grants LMJV an easement over Forest Service Lands to the private parcel. That decision was challenged in Court.
- On October 20, 2022, the Court once again rejected plans by the would-be developers to gain access across National Forest lands. Senior Federal Judge Christine M. Arguello invalidated the Rio Grande National Forest’s approval from 2019 that granted an access road across the National Forest in order to facilitate development of the massive real estate development proposed atop Wolf Creek Pass.
New Community Science Projects
- On October 31, 2022 (the last day of Bat Week), Colorado Bat Watch, our new community science project to monitor Colorado bat populations, officially launched! 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 engage community scientists in collecting 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.
- Early in 2022, we launched our community science project 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.
- Rocky Mountain Wild frequently partners with other groups to create maps and do analyses that show how various development proposals will impact Colorado’s wildlife, wildlands, and human populations. In 2021, one of our biggest projects involved mapping and analyzing all of the low producing and abandoned oil wells in Colorado – a problem that may cost our state more than $8 billion to clean up. You can check out the story map for the project at the website wellwellwellcolorado.com.
- We’ve joined with 75 other groups to call on the Biden administration to take executive action to protect the mature trees and forests on federal lands that are most critical in the fight against climate change. Protecting old forests keeps water cool and clean for native species, prevents flooding and erosion, and ensures communities continue to have access to beautiful, natural spaces. Visit the Climate Forest Campaign Take Action page. Or visit our page to send your own letter to tell the Biden Administration it’s time to let them grow!
- We joined other leading national and western-based environmental groups to form the Coalition for Oil and Gas Reform. We support the Department of Interior’s proposed reforms to bring the broken and antiquated federal oil and gas program into the 21st century so they can better serve everyone.
- This May, we will be hosting the 7th annual Colorado Endangered Species Week! This week is dedicated to providing educational events and advocacy opportunities to protect the planet and animal species that are at-risk here in Colorado.
Those are the highlights of our major programs currently. If you have any questions about 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.
If you want to follow us on social media, we do have a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
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