Thank you for signing up to receive our Rocky Mountain Wild News! 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:
- In the face of a climate crisis, the Colorado Pika Project (CPP) is engaging 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 to collect data on the presence of pikas and the characteristics of their habitat. Our community scientists have been visiting some of these sites for a decade, which has provided critical data to land managers and researchers about the distribution and habitat use of pika. Through the dedication of CPP volunteers, we can not only track how climate change is impacting pika, but 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 2021, we had over 400 community scientists who contributed 1,640 hours conducting 205 pika surveys. If you are interested in volunteering as a community scientist, visit our Pika Partners website! To help fund this work in 2022, we are currently 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. As our part of this project, we’ve been conducting 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)! If you would like to volunteer as a community scientist, checking and moving cameras to new locations within the study area, sign up on our SignUp Genius here.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Thanks again for signing up!