Protecting Lynx Habitat in Colorado’s Rio Grande National Forest
The U.S. Forest Service has proposed a timber sale on the Conejos Peak Ranger District of the Rio Grande National Forest. Quizzically, the Forest Service will not publicly identify specific areas for logging, locations for road construction, or techniques that will be used before the project is approved.
To complicate matters, the area is home to some of Colorado’s best lynx habitat and wildlife corridors that allow provide connectivity between habitat for a variety of species. WELC has engaged and will continue to engage in the administrative process related to this timber sale to ensure that these important wildlife areas are preserved and protected, and to ensure that the Forest Service fully discloses exactly what it plans to do where before it makes a final decision on the project.
Interestingly, there is an open scientific question as to whether or not, and how, lynx use forests that have experienced massive forest die off, whether at the hands of spruce beetles, mountain pine beetles, or as a result of wildfire. In the Rio Grande National Forest, wildlife biologist Dr. John Squires is conducting a study to determine how these areas are being used, and the response of these disrupting activities on Canada lynx. The preliminary findings show lynx are using the portions of the project area that have suffered spruce beetle die off for a variety of purposes, and importantly have documented successful lynx breeding in these areas. These findings, while still preliminary, seem to contradict the Forest Service’s stated need to salvage log these areas to allow new lynx habitat to develop.
We’re engaged administratively to ensure these rare cats don’t have potentially suitable habitat destroyed by logging under the guise of creating more habitat, and will hold the Forest Service accountable in federal court if it authorizes an irresponsible project.