October 7, 2009

Happy eco-warriors in Colorado gird for the species and wildnerness battles

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rita_hibbardweb1Advocates of wilderness and endangered species in Colorado are drawing a deep breath and preparing to do battle once again. And they’re happy they have the opportunity to do so.

The Denver Post reports that dozens of Colorado species, from the wolverine to the mountain plover to the white-tailed prairie dog are being re-evaluated for possible threatened or endangered status. In some cases, these are species that the Bush administration rejected for special protected status, and the courts have ordered a second look. But cost could be the limiting factor for the state. Bringing back the endangered lynx cost $3 million.

New species under consideration for protection have “aesthetic, ecological, education, historical, recreational and scientific value,” and those facing extinction “could be indicators of bigger ecosystem problems that could hurt us,” said Bridget Fahey, regional director of endangered species for the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service. “Science shows that when you start removing species from our ecosystem, things can start to break down.”

 For eight species nationwide, “inappropriate political meddling” by a Bush administration appointee resulted in court rulings. That’s the case for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a threatened species, for which federal officials today are expected to to propose protection for an additional 19,000 acres of Front Range habitat, Post reporter Bruce Finley writes.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Independent reports that environmental advocates, pushing hard for decades to increase Colorado’s wilderness, may finally have their chance with Democrats in control of Congress. Democratic U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver has floated a plan to create 34 new wilderness areas and protect nearly 900,000 acres. Environmental groups are backing plans that would increase wilderness acreage by even larger amounts, David O. Williams writes.

“We’ve got an enormous political opportunity having a strong conservation-minded Congress, at least more so than in quite some time,” Denver-based Environment Colorado advocate Matthew Garrington said.

— Rita Hibbard

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