“We have 22 million acres of public land here in Colorado that can support a lot of biodiversity, a lot of species, but we need to keep those islands of public lands connected, so that as our climate changes, threats come in, that animals can move across the landscape and get where they need to go in order to survive.”
May 14-20 marks Colorado Endangered Species Week, which as an opportunity for conservation organizations to raise awareness about the endangered animal and plant species in the state. Tehri Parker, Executive Director of the conservation group Rocky Mountain Wild, says there are 155 species of animals and plants that are considered endangered, threatened or considered species of concern in the state.
“A species that is considered endangered is one that is actually endangered of going extinct if we don’t take action to help protect it and its habitat. A species that is listed as threatened is a species that could become endangered if we don’t take action, so right now they’re considered fairly stable but they do need our help – they’re kind of on that tipping point, and then a species of special concern has some real specific threats to it and could at some point become threatened or endangered. So those are legal terms and there’s sort of a hierarchy of endangerment for that animal.”
If an animal is considered endangered, conservation groups can work to protect habitat on public lands. For the inaugural Colorado Endangered Species Week, Rocky Mountain Wild is focusing on 3 animals that fall on the endangered spectrum, Canada lynx, sage grouse and gray wolf.
Parker says there are between 150-250 Canada lynx in Colorado. “They were totally gone from the state until about 1999 when Colorado Parks and Wildlife did a wonderful reintroduction effort here in Colorado.” Parker says that since that time the population is pretty stable but lynx are still considered endangered in the state.
There are two different sage grouse species in Colorado – the greater sage grouse and the Gunnison sage grouse. Rocky Mountain Wild will be focusing on the Gunnison sage grouse this week. “That’s a much smaller population of birds. There’s only 5,000 of them left in the world and the majority of them are here in Colorado with a few in Utah. That bird is actually considered threatened and we’re working really hard right now to protect habitat for them on BLM land, so that they have the spaces that they need to survive into the future.”
Parker says that Rocky Mountain Wild will also focus on gray wolves this week. The gray wolf is federally listed as an endangered species and it’s also listed as endangered in Colorado. “Right now as far as we’re aware there are no gray wolves in Colorado, but there are wolves in Wyoming and occasionally one will come down into Colorado, but at this point we are unaware of any wolves in Colorado.”
Habitat loss is the primary reason for species becoming endangered. “Species need places to live, areas to roam, they need to have connected landscapes so that they can migrate. So habitat loss is the primary factor of why animals become endangered and humans are usually the cause of that habitat loss.” Parker says that with the ever growing human population in Colorado, long range planning that has a focus on conservation is needed. “We have 22 million acres of public land here in Colorado that can support a lot of biodiversity, a lot of species, but we need to keep those islands of public lands connected, so that as our climate changes, threats come in, that animals can move across the landscape and get where they need to go in order to survive.”
Rocky Mountain Wild is hosting a series of events this week to mark Colorado Endangered Species Week including a forum on Wolf Conservation: Past and Present on Friday May 19th, at the Boulder Jewish Community Center, 6007 Oreg Ave., Boulder.
From 6:00-7:00, there will be a meet and greet with an ambassador wolf from W.O.L.F. Sanctuary, followed by a screening of the film “A Season of Predators,” and the evening will end with a panel discussion on the topic Wolf Conservation in Colorado: Past, Present, and Future! This event is free to the public, but there is limited space, so people are asked to register.