Lack of lynx habitat prompts lawsuit

 The Canada lynx is headed into the court room. Driven in part by the lack of designated lynx habitat in the San Juan Mountains and Southern Rockies, four conservation groups have filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Sierra Club, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Native Ecosystems Council and the Center for Native Ecosystems filed the suit in late May. They argue that the land area the agency intends to designate as critical habitat for the lynx is not sufficient to protect the wild cat. The suit specifically cites the impacts of global warming on habitat and the need for the USFWS dedicate additional terrain to bringing the species back from the brink.  

“For the lynx to survive in a changing climate, the Fish and Wildlife Service must provide appropriate habitat and create wildlife corridors that will allow for migration as temperatures rise,” said Bruce Hamilton, Sierra Club’s Deputy Executive Director. “The current designation fails to consider the effects of climate change on lynx habitat, and that is unacceptable.”The agency revised its designation of critical habitat for the Canada lynx this February, designating 39,000 square miles in Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. While the designation was substantial, the Fish and Wildlife was accused of negletcing a great deal of critical, high-elevation terrain.

 “While we are glad to see FWS designate lynx habitat, the new designation will not ensure the survival of the species because it leaves out lynx habitat in many crucial areas,” said Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

Most significantly, the agency afforded no protection to the Southern Rockies of Colorado, despite the presence of a breeding population. The Colorado Division of Wildlife started reintroducing lynx near Durango in the San Juans in 1997. More than 100 lynx kittens have been born in the region since the reintroduction effort began. Experts believe that the higher elevation habitat in the Southern Rockies portion of the lynx’s range may be increasingly important for lynx survival as the climate warms.

“Coloradans have done a great thing by bringing back our lost lynx, but if the FWS won’t protect lynx habitat, we could lose them again,” said Megan Mueller, staff biologist with Center for Native Ecosystems. “Loss of this population could threaten the long-term survival of the lynx.”

The conservation groups further contend that the agency failed to consider the impacts of climate change on the Canada lynx. They add that FWS also failed to designate all the occupied and unoccupied areas that are essential to the conservation of the lynx as required by the Endangered Species Act.

New community college sets course

The region’s newest institution of higher education is ready to open its doors. The recently formed Southwest Colorado Community College announced its vision and mission last week. As a result of its creation, local residents will have access to much greater higher education opportunities.

The merger of Pueblo Community College’s Southwest Campus and San Juan Basin Technical College was signed into law recently by Gov. Bill Ritter. While the merger won’t become effective until July 1, the college’s catalog, career and technical program brochure, and the fall semester class schedule debuted last week. Two campus locations have been established – the East Campus in The Commons Building is Durango and the West Campus, 8 miles east of Cortez. In addition, a number of new directions have been planned.

“I am really looking forward to developing robust partnerships across the multiple communities in this region and seeing the growth and development that takes place in the future,” said Dr. J.D. Garvin, Pueblo Community College president.

Immediate efforts for the next two weeks will focus on final

izing the college’s organizational structure and leveraging the administration and staff to maximize service to both campuses.

SCCC will offer Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Science and Associate of General Studies degrees. Students will be able to choose from a wide range of certificate and degree career paths. They also will have access to PCC’s extensive online course schedule.

Fall semester course schedules are available at the SCCC campuses and online at

Hermosa Creek grazing scaled back

Livestock grazing will soon be leaving a lighter hoofprint on the Hermosa Creek drainage. The Forest Service has shortened and tightened regulations on the grazing season and closed several abandoned allotments to future grazing use.

The Hermosa Creek area north of Durango is a portrait of multiple use, containing numerous renowned trails, several popular campsites and sizeable allotments for livestock grazing. In a recent move, Matt Janowiak, acting district ranger, reauthorized grazing on the Dutch Creek, Elbert Creek and Upper Hermosa allotments. However, the approval did have strings attached.

The grazing will be shortened on two of three areas; there will be increased emphasis on controlling cattle distribution through herding; and fences will be constructed to keep cattle out of riparian areas and the East Fork of Hermosa Creek. In addition, the Hope Creek and South Fork allotments will be closed to grazing, and the Cascade Reservoir Allotment will be designated as a forage reserve.

“These are specific actions that we’re taking to meet desired conditions,” said Rowdy Wood, rangeland management specialist.

Wood noted that several parts of the landscape were not meeting Forest Plan standards and guidelines. In addition, negative impacts to Canada lynx habitat were also occurring as a result of the use.

Bad driver hotline opens to cyclists

Cyclists now have an important tool for dealing with aggressive drivers. Bicycle Colorado, an advocacy group, has worked with the Colorado State Patrol to ensure that its “Star CSP” aggressive driver hotline also accepts reports from cyclists.

Riders who encounter aggressive motorist behavior are encouraged to dial *CSP (*277). When dialing, the rider should be prepared to communicate a license plate number; the location and direction of travel; vehicle and driver description (when possible); and a description of the aggressive driving behavior.

Cyclists may report aggressive driving from any public road in Colorado, and not just a state highway.

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows