Southern Rockies (Colorado) Lynx: Disappearing or Stable? LCAS and the RG Plan

Mapped summer exploratory routes of lynx from Colorado

Matthew posted this about litigation on the Rio Grande plan.

The Canada lynx relies heavily on the Rio Grande National Forest in the Southern Rocky Mountains, which contains more than half the locations in Colorado where lynx are consistently found. But the population is in dire straits, and federal scientists predict that the lynx may disappear from Colorado altogether within a matter of decades. The Forest Service’s new plan has now opened the extremely important lynx habitat in the forest to logging, one of the biggest threats to the cat.

“Scientists are saying the Canada lynx population in the Rio Grande National Forest is in the ‘emergency room,’ but the Forest Service refuses to provide this species with the care it needs,” said Lauren McCain, senior policy analyst for Defenders of Wildlife. “

Since CPW monitors lynx populations, I called them and found that the total lynx population in Colorado is actually stable based on their monitoring. So to say in Colorado RG pops are in “dire straits” does not appear to be accurate, unless there is info somewhere that the RG population is in decline, but it averages out because other pops are expanding (?). It also seems like the LCAS (the statewide lynx forest plan amendment), which has been in existence since 2008, would still be in place under the new RG plan. So if that’s the case (CPW is not the “logging industry” and lynx isn’t hunted, so shouldn’t we trust them?), why would “federal scientists” make those predictions about the species as a whole disappearing from Colorado? Climate change? And yet, if that were the case, why choose southern Colorado for lynx reintroduction? (that was in 1997, so that wasn’t as much of a concern as today).

But.. if you reintroduce species to the southern part of their range, that depend on snowpack during the winter, and then they ultimately have trouble from climate the solution to stop logging? Even with LCAS in place? Ultimately then, it could be argued that anything that disturbs lynx is a threat, and on that basis should be stopped, including, possibly, recreation of all kinds. And yet, with current levels of all those activities, numbers of the species state-wide have remained stable. But we need to do more protective habitat interventions even so, just in case? And what if at the end of the day, we have kept everyone out (and removed developed ski areas) and the lynx still moves north due to climate change?

Here’s the history from CPW:

Colorado represents the southern-most historical distribution of naturally occurring lynx, where the species occupied the higher elevation, montane forests in the state (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2000). Lynx were extirpated or reduced to a few animals in Colorado, however, by the late 1970’s (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2000), most likely due to multiple human-associated factors, including predator control efforts such as poisoning and trapping (Meaney 2002). Given the isolation of and distance from Colorado to the nearest northern populations of lynx, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife [CPW]) considered reintroduction as the best option to reestablish the species in the state…

The DOW’s strategy for lynx reintroduction was to first release a number of lynx within a “core reintroduction area” in southwestern Colorado that biologists regarded as the best potential lynx habitat available in the state. Biologists hoped that over time lynx would not only remain in this area long enough to survive and reproduce, but also disperse on their own into other tracts of suitable habitat throughout the state. To this end, DOW biologists began releasing lynx back into southern Colorado in 1999 (Fig. 1). During 1999−2006, a total of 218 wild-caught lynx from Canada and Alaska were released in this core area.

Most interesting to me was this video on Colorado lynx, full of information about them and their lives, plus lots of photos and videos, and their summer explorations, as well as research on lynx and bark beetles, winter recreation, and snowshoe hare density, with CPW scientist Jake Ivan. If you’ve seen a lynx way outside of its habitat during the summer, you might not be imagining things; they go on long walkabouts (to Idaho, Montana and out east) and come back for winter. It’s amazing to me that the telemetry gear does not interfere with lynx activities.

Here’s a link to my previous post on the CPW/FS winter recreation research. I just noticed I hadn’t posted the paper then, here’s a link to an article and several papers.


For more detail, here’s what the ROD for the new RG Forest Plan says about LCAS (page 29 of the ROD):

Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment
The selected alternative uses direction in the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment Record of
Decision, as amended and modified. The Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment was completed
prior to the spruce beetle infestation and accounts for live, green forested habitat. Standards
VEG S7 (S-TEPC-2) and S-TEPC-3 were added to the land management plan to account for
the increased amount of standing, dead spruce-fir habitat.
The direction incorporates the most recently available information from a study on the use of
habitat by lynx on the Forest (Squires et al. 2018). The direction applies to lynx habitat on
National Forest System lands on the Rio Grande National Forest.
Canada lynx habitat in Colorado primarily occurs in the subalpine and upper montane forest
zones. Lynx show a preference for subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, aspen, and lodgepole
pine forest types. Recent information demonstrates the close relationship of lynx on the
Forest to particular locations within the subalpine forest zone and their use of specialized
forest structure (Ivan et al. 2014, Squires et al. 2018). Other habitats used by reintroduced
lynx locally include spruce-fir/aspen associations and various riparian and riparian-associated
areas dominated by dense willow, particularly during the summer period (Shenk 2009).
The Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment identified four linkage areas on the Forest that
remain important areas of habitat connectivity. Connective habitat in the San Juan Mountains
is essential for facilitating movement of Canada lynx across the landscape. The plan provides
forestwide plan components that protect connectivity.
This direction identifies the high probability lynx use areas for the Forest and clarifies that
VEG S1 and VEG S2 from the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment do not apply in lynx
analysis units outside the high probability lynx use areas. Standard VEG S7 provides
direction for salvage activities that occur in the high probability lynx use areas.
The biological opinion concluded that the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the land
management plan are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of lynx within the
contiguous United States distinct population segment. Endangered species implementing
regulation (50 CFR 402.14 (i)(6) does not require an incidental take statement for
programmatic level planning. Any incidental take resulting from any action subsequently
authorized, funded, or carried out under the program will be addressed in subsequent section
7 consultation, as appropriate.

Tarantulas on the Move on Comanche National Grassland

The sun sets as a male tarantula successfully crosses U.S. 350 outside La Junta this month in search of a female mate. Now through the early part of October is a good time to spot tarantulas in Comanche National Grassland near La Junta. They’re most active in the hour before sunset. Gazette photo.


While people are off leaf-peeping across our National Forests, we can also acknowledge that the often less heard-from National Grasslands have their own tourism attractions. This one (Seth Boster story in the Colorado Springs Gazette) seems fairly unusual…

If you’ve seen headlines about “thousands of tarantulas” or “waves of tarantulas” marching across southeast Colorado every fall — CNN and USA Today have covered the annual phenomenon in recent years — you might have the wrong idea. On the contrary, you might see one or two or three at a time crawl across this prairie. Or, you might see none.

I’m beginning to think that is our fate. Other drivers from afar seem to be thinking the same thing.

“Seen any spiders?” one asks from Denver.

“You guys looking for tarantulas?” asks another from Colorado Springs.

She’s driving one of two SUVS in a caravan of searchers. I envy those extra eyes. Mine are sore, along with my craned neck, from forever scanning the road in vain.

Clumps of dirt, spots of tar, a glove, a shoe, a dead squirrel, smashed cacti and grasshoppers of biblical proportions all deceive. I eventually learn to ignore those lubbers for how they glimmer in the sun. The furry arachnids of interest do no such thing.

On and on and on through the fields, and I am wondering about this interest, why I am so eager to find these creepy crawlers. And why is everyone else? Drivers form the true waves here.

“My phone’s been ringing off the hook,” says Pam Denahy, La Junta’s tourism director. “End of August to early October, it’s consistent.”

If you’re asking, Denahy’s answer is yes, now is your best chance to spot the tarantulas. You’ve probably heard of this fall “migration.” The common description again gives the wrong idea.

The tarantulas are not exactly coming and going. They live around here. They’ve always lived around here, since and likely long before the Dust Bowl banished farmers and led to the 1960 establishment of the national grassland — prairie to be left undisturbed.

“You generally won’t find (tarantulas) where people have plowed,” says Whitney Cranshaw, who spent 37 years teaching entomology at Colorado State University and has annually ventured here to witness the eight-legged phenomenon. “They have permanent burrows, and they live for a long time. So it has to be an area that hasn’t been destroyed. It has to be relatively intact, native prairie.”

The tarantulas roam across Comanche’s 443,000-plus acres not so much migrating, but rather looking for love.

If you’re curious, follow the link (I hope it works!, let me know if not) and read on.

Civil War Plant Remedies Employed Against Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria : Tulip Poplar and White Oak

This is such an interesting story- first, how doctors during the Civil War dealt with a lack of medicine; second, that we are still learning from those people and their predecessors (only 160-ish years ago); and third, while sometimes we may focus on the rare (charismatic megafauna, endangered plants), sometimes value also hides in plain sight, with the ubiquitous species that we may take for granted. Here’s a link to an article in Science Daily about this study.

During the height of the Civil War, the Confederate Surgeon General commissioned a guide to traditional plant remedies of the South, as battlefield physicians faced high rates of infections among the wounded and shortages of conventional medicines. A new study of three of the plants from this guide — the white oak, the tulip poplar and the devil’s walking stick — finds that they have antiseptic properties.

Scientific Reports is publishing the results of the study led by scientists at Emory University. The results show that extracts from the plants have antimicrobial activity against one or more of a trio of dangerous species of multi-drug-resistant bacteria associated with wound infections: Acinetobacter baumannii, Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae.

“Our findings suggest that the use of these topical therapies may have saved some limbs, and maybe even lives, during the Civil War,” says Cassandra Quave, senior author of the paper and assistant professor at Emory’s Center for the Study of Human Health and the School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatolog

Military field hospitals within the Confederacy, however, did not have reliable access to these medicines due to a blockade — the Union Navy closely monitored the major ports of the South to prevent the Confederacy from trading.

Seeking alternatives, the Confederacy commissioned Francis Porcher, a botanist and surgeon from South Carolina, to compile a book of medicinal plants of the Southern states, including plant remedies used by Native Americans and enslaved Africans. “Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests,” published in 1863, was a major compendium of uses for different plants, including a description of 37 species for treating gangrene and other infections. Samuel Moore, the Confederate Surgeon General, drew from Porcher’s work to produce a document called “Standard supply table of the indigenous remedies for field service and the sick in general hospitals.”

For the current study, the researchers focused on three plant species Porcher cited for antiseptic use that grow in Lullwater Preserve on the Emory campus. They included two common hardwood trees — the white oak (Quercus alba) and the tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) — as well as a thorny, woody shrub commonly known as the devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa).


“Plants have a great wealth of chemical diversity, which is one more reason to protect natural environments,” Dettweiler says. He plans to go to graduate school with a focus on researching plants for either medical or agricultural purposes. “I’m interested in plants because, even though they don’t move from place to place, they are extremely powerful and important.”

Forest Service monetizes endangered species

This just seemed noteworthy.  Maybe it could be replicated for other species …

Kirtland’s warbler tours will be offered daily from May 15 through May 31, 7 days a week at the Mio Ranger District of the Huron National Forest. The Kirtland’s warbler tour costs $10 per adult and is free for children. Funds from the tours help cover costs associated with the tours.

Trump Reportedly Wants to Clearcut Giant Sequoias

As per the Sierra Club

“Logging companies are lying in wait, chainsaws ready, for Trump to chop the protections of Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Don’t let Trump give loggers free reign to fell majestic trees. Become a monthly donor to save this precious ecosystem: ”

Leave no funding opportunity left unexploited!

Post-Election Thoughts About Our Forests?

With a new Republican President and a Republican-controlled Congress, how will this affect the Forest Service and the BLM?


Regarding the picture: I did some processing with a High Dynamic Range (HDR) program to get this artsy view. It is interesting that it enhanced the flames better than in the original scan, from a Kodachrome slide. I shot this while filling in on an engine, on the Lassen NF, back in 1988.

Howdy, Folks

I’m just going to drop this here. A side by side comparison of the land that some serial litigators insist is clear evidence of Forest Service salvage clearcutting in the Rim Fire. The caption reads, “Post-fire clearcutting on the Stanislaus National Forest in the Rim fire area, eliminated the wildlife-rich snag habitat and left only stump fields.” Where is the “wildlife-rich snag habitat” in that burned-over plantation on private land? The picture on the right is before logging started, from Google Maps.

Yes, the story is still up on their website, in all its slanderous glory.

Have a nice day!


Phenotypic Plasticity!

I was on a camping trip last week and one of the stops was at Crater Lake National Park. Within the park are “The Pinnacles”, where I saw this interesting tree, standing out, because of its color. It almost looks like one of those fake tree cell towers. I’m guessing that this is a red fir, on the edge of its elevation range. Of course, we’re all happy about phenotypic plasticity when we look at someone we find attractive.


Also on that trip, I visited Subway Cave, on my old Ranger District at Hat Creek, on the Lassen NF. It is a lava tube where two roof collapses allow you to walk in one way and walk out the other end. A very nice place to stop for lunch.


The Rim Fire Salvage Seems Done

My last expedition included another trip to Yosemite, and the Rim Fire. I DO think that there are enough dead trees for the owls to “enjoy” in their respite from breeding. Then again, maybe this new “Circle of Life” will provide more food, in the form of baby owls, to larger predators?


You might also notice the ongoing beetle kills, which will increase when spring and summer come into play. This next picture shows the little bit of harvesting that was done along Highway 120. You can see the drainage where the Highway sits, and you can also see how wide the hazard tree units are. The barren area in the foreground is/was chaparral.


I am glad that the Forest Service “took my advice” about getting the work done before there was any chance to appeal to a more liberal….errr….. higher court. However, is THIS what we want our salvaged wildfires to look like? This area should be ready for re-burn in a few short years. Also, be reminded that two of the plantation salvage projects did not sell, despite the prompt action by the Forest Service. My guess is that SPI was low-balling the Forest Service to get those smaller trees at less than “base rates”. That means that the prices remain the same (rock bottom) but, some of the non-commercial treatments would be dropped. It appears that the Forest Service wasn’t willing to go as low as SPI wanted. So, those perfectly good salvage trees will be left, “for wildlife”, it appears.

Happy Earth Day!

P9193955-web P9193966-web P9193951-web

26 years after “protected” forests burned, in Yosemite National Park, this is what we now have. Chances are, it will burn again, before conifer trees can become established enough to resist the next inevitable wildfire. You might notice that even the manzanita is having trouble surviving. I doubt that John Muir intended this on public lands. This landscape is probably the future of parts of the Rim Fire, within Yosemite National Park.