Report: Habitat fragmentation a major issue facing Colorado
COLORADO SPRINGS – The annual State of the Rockies report released today by Colorado College shows that six of the state’s metropolitan counties have the dubious distinction of ranking in the top ten for habitat threats from fragmentation. Broomfield, Denver, Adams and Arapahoe counties ranked as the counties with the most habitat fragmentation in the eight-state region, covering Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and Nevada.The annual report takes extensive student research and analysis from student researchers, who look at demographic and scientific data and then crunch numbers to come up with county by county rankings.Summit County ranks in the middle of the pack for fragmentation, as measured against other “micropolitan” counties, a category separate from the metro areas as well as purely rural counties.”I’m sure they’ve taken some hits for giving scores,” said Chris Pague, senior conservation ecologist with The Nature Conservancy of Colorado, going on to explain that habitat loss is the driver for so many conservation issues.The Nature Conservancy was prominently featured during the first round of speakers at the State of the Rockies Conference Monday. Pague hammered at the theme of fragmentation, and said the data in the report will provide a good baseline from which to measure any changes during the coming years. The state’s population expected to grow from the current 4.7 million to about 7 million by 2030. At the same time, the development footprint will increase from 2.5 million acres to 0.5 million acres during that same span.Still, Pague is convinced that not a single existing species in the state need go extinct, based on the scientific information and the land use planning tools that are available – as long as there’s the political and social will to make conservation a high priority.The organization’s state director, Charles Bedford, said that requires measuring the value of what he called ecological services, including clean air and water and wildlife habitat. The Nature Conservancy has focused on this economic aspect of land preservation for some time, and Bedford said it’s time to bring new conservation tools into play.”We need to find and use new ways to do conservation in Colorado,” Bedford said. “If we believe our natural infrastructure is worth saving, we need to be more creative in finding ways to do that,” he added, comparing the investments made in education and transportation with the paltry public commitments to preservation.Bedford suggested investing some of the revenues from the state’s skyrocketing oil and gas severance taxes in conservation, and also called on Colorado to boost tax incentives for private land conservation and to help local governments by matching funding put forth by local groups. He said his organization has also recently started working with private investment funds to show that there can be a return on investments in conservation.The conference continues today and Wednesday with sessions on ranching, environmental justice and regional politics.State of the Rockies project director Dr. Walter Hecox also singled out the roundtable on climate change and global warming as potentially one of the most significant issues for the region.”It appears increasingly that nature bats lasts,” he said, raising the prospect of long-term drought and other climate-change impacts across the region.For more information on the report card and the conference, go to: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/news_events/releases/March2006/ StateoftheRockies.asp.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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