Cory Gardner poised to intervene against feds on greater sage grouse

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner will introduce legislation in Congress on Wednesday that would bar the federal government from listing greater sage grouse as endangered and give western states six more years to revive grouse populations on their own.

“When it comes to the environment in our own backyard, we understand it far better than anybody in Washington D.C. This would give us the ability to manage our most important resources at the local level,” Gardner said in an interview Tuesday.

“We have an obligation to future generations to conserve and recover this species. But we can do it on our terms. Let’s put Coloradans in charge, let’s put Westerners in charge of the West.”

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Feds, states spar in push to create 165 million acre safe zone for grouse

CRAIG — Blooping sounds, chest-puffing and ruffling of feathers in a sunrise-mating dance mark the latest survival struggles of greater sage grouse, iconic birds at the center of a storm that may put unprecedented limits on people across a Texas-sized area of the West.

The question — as a decades-long standoff intensifies ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline — is who will impose those limits: the federal government or Colorado and 10 other states that favor flexibility.

Either way, this will be the largest land-conservation feat ever attempted.

Once, greater sage grouse numbered in the millions, along with 300-plus other species, on the sagebrush steppe that stretches from Colorado to California.

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Greenback cutthroat trout recovery gets stronger with Colorado project

LEADVILLE — Circling in captivity, Colorado’s imperiled state fish — the greenback cutthroat trout — shuns traditional fish food.

Its federal biologist caretakers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Leadville National Fish Hatchery try to entice the fish by dispensing grated beef liver, fresh shrimp and imported $11-a-pound Otohime morsels from Japan.

Decades of inbreeding also have rendered the greenback cutthroat extra susceptible to sickness. And when humans approach, the trout bangs against the concrete tank walls.

So hatchery manager Ed Stege fills the tanks with purified water and, as much as possible, shields the fish from visitors.

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Deer declining across Colorado and West

Bouncy, big-eared icons of the American West, deer are declining rapidly across Colorado and other states — forcing difficult decisions.

The causes vary from energy development to hard winters and aren’t always clear.

But dwindling numbers already have driven cutbacks on deer hunting, reducing potential funds for land conservation.

State wildlife biologists are scrambling to reverse the declines. This is spurring scrutiny of intensifying oil and gas drilling on federally managed deer habitat.

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Bald eagles thrive while goldens face rising threats around West

Bald eagles are popping out in healthy numbers around Colorado, where historically they were rare, a dramatic adaptation that lifts spirits. State wildlife biologists once deemed such a comeback impossible. Damming rivers to form reservoirs lured geese, created cottonwood nesting habitat and put water year-round in the South Platte River, which otherwise ran dry in late summer.

Using the deadly pesticide DDT was banned. Bald eagles augmented their fish-and-fowl diet by snapping up prairie dogs. And bald eagles proved increasingly resilient amid rapid urbanization.

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Colorado natural resources chief cited for hunting on private property

Colorado’s top natural resources manager is heading to court in Routt County to defend himself against allegations that he hunted elk on private property without permission.

A state wildlife officer on Oct. 12 cited Department of Natural Resources director Mike King for an incident involving use of an all-terrain vehicle while hunting elk in September in the Egeria Park area south of Steamboat Springs.

King pleaded not guilty Dec. 10 and is to appear before Routt County Judge James Garrecht on Feb. 26.

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Tagged wolverine MIA as feds and Colorado delay possible protection

The wolverine M56 who trekked to Colorado seeking safe haven and, perhaps, a mate has gone missing as federal and state authorities delay decisions on whether to protect wolverines from intentional killing.

No radio signal has been detected since October 2012.

Federal officials this month announced they will delay a decision on endangered-species protection for wolverines until scientific disagreements on climate- change impacts are resolved.

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Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge rounding up 27 bison to thin hungry herd

COMMERCE CITY — There’s still no home for some of the bison that must be culled from the growing herd on a federal refuge north of Denver, and herd managers Tuesday had their hands full rounding them up into a circular corral.

“Bison are a different kind of animal. These are wild. They don’t behave like cattle,” said Dave Lucas, manager of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, as he looked down from a 12-foot elevated catwalk. “No human is getting down in there with these bison.”

A crew of 40 staffers and biologists — using native prairie grass and water as enticement — coaxed bison into a fenced area and chutes.

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Patch of prairie draws people to metro Denver’s east edge

AURORA — A 1,100-acre patch of open prairie at the eastern edge of metro Denver is drawing more people — children better at identifying corporate logos than birds and adults whose feet seldom touch soil.

They walk, feeling soft clay and temperature shifts in the wind. They see sky, wispy cirrus streaks and billowy puffs. They hear the scampering of pronghorn. They smell wood fires at a homestead.

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U.S. ivory crush spurs fight to save elephants, stop illicit trade

COMMERCE CITY — American military force may be brought to the growing fight to save elephants and kill a $10 billion illicit trade tied to crime and terrorism, U.S. officials said Thursday before crushing 6 tons of seized ivory.

But deploying drones, choppers and troops to bolster park ranger forces would have to be done delicately to protect human rights and avoid destabilizing Africa, according to wildlife and diplomatic officials.

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