Environmental news wrap-up: Grand County event celebrates 20 years of National Public Lands Day
National Public Lands Day is a coast-to-coast event that brings together more than 100,000 people to collect trash, plant trees, pull weeds and maintain trails. In Grand County, the event draws more participants and completes the largest amount of work of any National Public Lands Day celebration.
Grand County will celebrating its 20th year hosting the longest, continuous National Public Lands Day event on Saturday, Sept. 27. This year, volunteers will receive a commemorative T-shirt and celebrate with a slide show of previous events, beginning in 1995.
Volunteers of all ages and abilities can sign up in advance or at 7 a.m. on Sept. 27 at the SilverCreek Convention Center in Granby for the project of their choice. Buses leave at 7:45 a.m., so volunteers should arrive early to enjoy the free continental breakfast and assemble a hearty lunch for the trail.
Family-friendly projects this year include the Upper Colorado cleanup using rafts and a trail improvement project on Creekside Trail off St. Louis Creek Road in Fraser. Other projects include willow planting and shoreline erosion control measures on the Fraser River with Trout Unlimited; the construction of a 30-foot bridge over the South Fork of Ranch Creek in the Idlewild trail system near Winter Park; and work on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.
At the end of the day, volunteers return for pizza, lasagna, dessert, live music and chances to win prizes like rounds of golf, ski tickets and outdoor gear. For more information, stop by the U.S. Forest Service office in Granby or call (970) 887-4120.
UDALL LOVES WILDERNESS
Sen. Mark Udall, chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on National Parks and an advocate for Colorado’s public lands and wilderness areas, introduced a bipartisan resolution in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, Sept. 17, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
“The Wilderness Act has played a crucial role in supporting Colorado’s special way of life, strengthening local economies and protecting public lands. From the Maroon Bells and Colorado’s 14ers to places like the James Peak Wilderness and the Great Sand Dunes, the Wilderness Act has safeguarded the Centennial State’s natural treasures for future generations,” Udall said. “As we celebrate the role these public lands play in supporting our communities and local economies, let’s redouble our efforts to safeguard new wilderness areas like Browns Canyon.”
Udall has championed the role Colorado’s public lands and outdoor-recreation industry play in creating jobs and boosting the economy. Using grassroots efforts and public input, he has crafted public lands bills, including his recent proposal to create the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Area near the Arkansas River.
FIGHTING OVER LYNX HABITAT
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Thursday, Sept. 11, that it will list the New Mexico population of Canada lynx as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act and extend that protection to lynx elsewhere in the contiguous United States.
The protection will exclude occupied lynx habitat in the Southern Rockies, from southern Wyoming through Colorado and into northern New Mexico, as well as lynx habitat in parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and other states in the species’ range.
Advocacy groups WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center plan to legally challenge what they call inadequate critical habitat designation for lynx after fighting for greater protections for the last eight years.
“By ignoring huge swaths of currently occupied lynx habitat, the Service is undermining lynx recovery efforts yet again,” said Drew Kerr, carnivore advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “To survive threats including climate change, motorized recreation, development, logging and fossil fuel extraction, lynx need habitat protections throughout their range.”
Lynx was first listed as a threatened species in 2000. The listing protected lynx in 14 states, but didn’t include lynx habitat in New Mexico and other areas. In 2007, advocacy groups petitioned to include the New Mexico lynx population in the listing and later took the issue to court. The Service ignored that petition, forcing the groups to go to court to compel a response.
In the meantime, those groups say, the lack of protections contributed to the death of 14 of the known 61 New Mexico lynx.
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