Happy New Year from all of us at Audubon Rockies!
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January 2017 Newsletter
Happy New Year!

Protecting birds and their habitat in Wyoming and Colorado.

What's In This Issue?


Lead Story:  Our conservation efforts took flight in 2016, thanks to our amazing activist members, generous donors, and partners.

Western Rivers Action Network 5 ways your 2017 New Year's resolutions could save Colorado's Rivers and winter water webinar series starting soon!
Community Naturalists  A Christmas (bird count) story and what lies ahead in the New Year.
Habitat HeroHabitat Heroes in the spotlight and release of Wildscape Ambassador workshops along the Front Range.
Sagebrush EcosystemFlurry of Federal Actions as Presidential transition nears.
Upcoming Audubon EventsFind community events coming near you.
Bird Bits - Cool bird facts and news bits.

Bird Trivia - Fun games to test your bird skills!

Chapter Happenings - Local Chapters provide excellent birding, education, and conservation opportunities!  Check out the special article featuring collaborative funding conservation projects! 
National News National Audubon Society shares their newsletter and policy advisory, along with the results of last year's Christmas Bird Count.

Our Conservation Efforts Took Flight in 2016

Thanks to our generous donors, foundations, corporate sponsors and community partners, 2016 was a very successful year for our fundraising efforts!  While we are a regional office of National Audubon Society, our staff works hard to raise 100% of funds needed to run our programs. Without you, and the many ways that you support us, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that we do for birds in Wyoming and Colorado.  Here's a sampling of all we did, with your help, in 2016:

Community Naturalist Education

  • Educated more than 12,000 children and adults on the importance of protecting birds and their habitat

  • Trained more than 620 adult community members as naturalists and science teachers

  • Presented over 300 education programs in the region

  • Reached 4,000 students and 20,000 community members thorough our classroom activities, workshops, bird banding, our annual BioBlitz and many other events

Habitat Hero

  • Recognized 62 Habitat Hero winners for their “wildscaping” efforts providing critical habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife

  • Reached 3,703 at 47 events in 15 counties

  • Converted more than 200 acres of habitat by planting 56,847 native plants as part of our Habitat Hero Program

Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative

  • Completed Phase 1 of the Wyoming Core Area Health Assessment research, designed to strengthen the decision-making process of our Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative

  • Worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the development of a comprehensive sagebrush education curriculum traveling trunk for grades k-8. Because of the popularity of this free program, Audubon Rockies is working to secure funding to bring this program (including the traveling education trunks) to communities across the West

  • Worked closely with U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Developing its “National Greater Sage-grouse Planning Strategy”, a proactive, region-wide effort to protect this iconic bird

  • Worked with conservation partners to develop strong, science-based comments for proposed high-voltage transmission lines, wind farms, oil and gas projects, and proposed changes to national eagle permit regulations

Western Rivers Initiative

  • Engaged more than 20,000 members of our Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN) and 250 network leaders in Colorado and Wyoming to advocate for the Colorado River

  • Sponsored restoration projects along the St. Vrain and Big Thompson Rivers utilizing 275 volunteers, 2,550 volunteer hours, pulled 100,000 Tamarisk, planted over 7,000 native plants/trees, and helped restore over 4,600 feet of streambank

  • Hosted our first annual O.A.R.S. commercial rafting trip educating 24 participants on Colorado’s last wild and free flowing river – the Yampa River in Northwest Colorado

Thank you for your continuing support of Audubon Rockies.  Working together, we are building a lasting legacy for birds, nature and people.  You are what hope looks like to birds.

Let’s make 2017 even better! 

 Bird Bits

To Feed, or Not to Feed

Backyard feeders are good for birds, as long as you follow these simple guidelines. Read the full article HERE


10 Major Conservation Wins in 2016

By many metrics, 2016 was a challenging year.  But in spite of that, this past year proved remarkable for Audubon and its partners that work to protect birds and the places they need throughout the hemisphere.  Read the full article HERE


Rare White Hummingbird Steals the Spotlight at California Garden

This fall, a California arboretum hosted a leucistic Anna's Hummingbird.  Rare and arresting, the bird, which was almost entriely white, captured the attention of bird lovers across the county.  Read the full article HERE


Watch this Video of a Bald Eagle Attaching an Osprey Nest

An Osprey nest on the coast of Maine was raided in a dramatic Bald Eagle attack and our live cam caught the drama on film.  Watch this rare video to see just how fast and powerful a raptor attack can be.  Read the full article HERE

 Bird Trivia

A Photo ID Quiz That's Perfect for Beginner Birders

Photo by Peter G. Arnold  

Test your birding knowledge with 10 species often found during the Christmas Bird Count.  

Take Quiz Now!

Support Audubon Rockies


The Roost - Chapter News

Chapter Websites & Newsletters

Colorado Chapters: Wyoming Chapters:

Each Chapter is an independent organization of Audubon members that is chartered and annually re-certified by National Audubon Society. 

They provide excellent birding, education, and conservation opportunities for members at the local level. They also often advocate on behalf of conservation at the local, state, and national level.

 Chapters Lead with On-the-Ground Conservation Projects


National Audubon Society provides funding to chapters across the country annually to support conservation projects (defined broadly to include education, citizen science, policy, habitat restoration, etc.).  This funding is often times maximized by matching funding raised by the chapters for their specific projects.  Last year, over $85,000 was awarded to chapters, among which were four chapters in the Audubon Rockies’ region (WY and CO):

  • Arkansas Valley Audubon Society (CO): Funding was used to educate big game hunters about the efficacy of non-lead ammunition and encourage its use it to decrease unintended secondary lethal effects of lead bullets on scavengers and predators – notably raptors and other aerial and non-aerial scavengers. This was achieved through partnerships with CO Parks and Wildlife offices in Pueblo, Salida, and Monte Vista; hunter education classes in Pueblo; the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo; and Arctic Shooting Supply.  These partners helped in AVAS’ efforts to educate the public through presentations and distribution of educational flyers and vouchers for free copper bullets to hunters.  In total, 69 volunteers reached 7,005 people directly about this issue.  See fact sheet here.

  • Bighorn Audubon Society (WY): Funding was used to go towards the process of nominating an Important Bird Area, and developing an associated science-based conservation strategy. The area being considered is a 640-acre property owned by The Brinton Museum, which features 19th, 20th and 21st century Western and American Indian Art. The Brinton ecosystem is composed of prairie and riparian habitats. A total of 113 avian species have been identified on the property. This past year, the IBA site proposal was submitted and efforts begun on establishing a credible conservation committee that will develop a science-based conservation plan, which will highlight the Sandhill crane - a priority species that nests on the property. Find out more about the IBA program here.

  • Boulder County Audubon Society (CO): Funding went towards purchasing two cameras for their existing Teen Naturalists program.  The chapter hosted 2 mini bio-blitzes on two properties around Boulder, where prairie restoration projects were occurring. The bio-blitzes were structured so that the teen participants could use the cameras to document and identify their sightings, then be challenged by a mentor-led discussion to research and understand the how the various components of these ecosystems interacted.  The students also did the same for areas of these properties not under restoration and observed the paucity of native plants and animals.  The students also pledged future volunteer hours to continue to work on the prairie restoration. Past participants of the Teen Naturalist program have gone on to pursue biology majors in college.

  • Fort Collins Audubon Society (CO): Funding was used to purchase 4 pairs of inexpensive “loaner” binoculars that would be made available to field trip participants and for other appropriate FCAS and community events to promote greater appreciation of birds, birding, and nature. 

 Passing of an Outstanding Conservationist

We are saddened to learn about the death of conservationist Tom Maechtle in late December.   Many of our staff had the great privilege of knowing, working, and partnering with Tom, an extremely talented biologist and kind person. 

Passionate about birds and their ecology since he was 12 years old, Tom Maechtle has forged a life-long commitment to the conservation and study of wildlife and their habitats. His pioneering efforts into the application of satellite received telemetry has allowed him to study a wide-range of wildlife species including migratory peregrine falcons from the Arctic to South America, pronghorn & wild horses of Utah, as well as sensitive species such as the greater sage-grouse and golden eagles in the western United States.

He was quoted in a New York Times article as saying satellite tracking “turns the animal into a partner with the researcher” and suggested that you can think of tagged falcons as biologists who have been “sent out to find and sample other birds.”

He was an internationally known expert on peregrine falcons having worked in Greenland, Alaska, Mexico, South America, Russia and the U.S.  He built his highly successful Big Horn Environmental Consultants business in Sheridan, WY and earned respect from both resource developers and conservationists because of his interpersonal skills and reliance on science. He authored or co-authored many scientific publications, most recently on Greater Sage-grouse.  He served as chair of the Northeast Local Sage-Grouse Working Group for over 12 years, since its inception in 2004. Tom was dedicated to sage-grouse conservation and donated much of his personal and his company's time and talents to this cause.

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late November and passed away on Christmas.  We will miss this humble man, who contributed so much to our knowledge and appreciation of avian species.



National News


DECEMBER NEWSLETTER "How to Welcome Birds" and other stories.


DECEMBER POLICY ADVISORY "Victory for Greater Sage-Grouse" and other news!


Now through February 20 is your chance to submit your photography!

Happy birding from all of us!


Alison Holloran, Executive Director
John Kloster-Prew, Deputy Director
Daly Edmunds, Director Policy & Outreach
Dusty Downey, Sr. Regional Community Naturalist
Jacelyn Downey, Sr. Regional Community Naturalist
Keith Bruno, SW Colorado Community Naturalist
Zach Hutchinson, Community Naturalist
Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead

Jamie Weiss, Habitat Hero Coordinator
Mandi Casolo, Office Assistant

Support Audubon Rockies

This month we would like to acknowledge valued sponsors and partners:








Upcoming Community Events

"Sage Spirit, The American West at a Crossroads"
Thursday, Jan 12
Social - 7:00 pm, Program - 7:30 pm
Fort Collins Senior Center, 1200 Raintree Drive
Fort Collins

Fort Collins Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies have teamed up to bring you a FREE program by acclaimed conservation photographer, Dave Showalter

All are welcome to join us as Dave shares insights and stories from the making of his stunning book "Sage Spirit." 

Enjoy a breathtaking walk through the iconic landscape and get rarely seen images of the many critters that call it home and the challenges this fragile ecosystem faces for survival in a quickly changing world.

13th Annual Ute Mountain mesa Verde Birding Festival
May 10-14 (Save the Date)
Cortez, Colorado

Tours, Banquet, Art Show, Keynote Speaker, and more!  Early registration highly recommended.

Western Rivers Action Network

Holiday lights at Clear Creek river park in Golden, CO. Photo by Abby Burk.

5 Ways Your 2017 New Year's Resolutions Could Save Colorado's Rivers!


We may not have all the water we want, but, we do have all the water we need. Colorado’s rivers are not only important to Colorado, but beyond the borders of our state. Water security for people and our environment depends on improving flexible legal frameworks, when, how and for what purpose we choose to use water. Variable precipitation patterns and forms have created a new normal across the West. Learning to do more with less water is a critical lesson for states dependent on Colorado River supplies. Water demands across all water consumers are outpacing supplies and straining our rivers and wildlife they support. The lives of birds are closely tied to water, just like our own. However, there is opportunity in crisis, but only if we act on it. What if your water saving choices and actions became a trickle in a stream? Or, help connect the Colorado River again to the sea? There is hope for the future health of our western rivers, but we all need to pitch in. Everyone needs healthy flowing rivers. Everyone.

Here are some meaningful ways you could help secure a brighter future for western rivers and for the people, birds and other wildlife that depend on them.


#1 Help improve water policy at the federal and state levels. Support government efforts to improve water conservation and flexible water use across Colorado and the Colorado River Basin. Public initiatives and funding like the federal WaterSMART program can help water-resource managers narrow the gap between water supply and demand through collaborative projects. Elected and agency officials need to hear from you that these and environmental flows for rivers are important priorities.  Stay tuned for engagement from Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network.

#2 Participate in a wetland or riparian restoration project. Audubon and our on-the-ground conservation partners actively participate in the enhancement, restoration, and protection of critical freshwater habitats. In Colorado, it is estimated that 90 percent of the state’s 800 species of birds, fish and wildlife depends on riparian habitat, even though these areas comprise less than two percent of the state. Unfortunately, these freshwater habitats are under pressure from diminished legal protections, climate change, contamination, invasive species and development. Restoring ecological infrastructure such as wetland and riparian habitats improve resiliency and water supply. Wetlands work like massive sponges: they absorb snowmelt and rainwater then release it slowly to nearby streams or the groundwater below.

Join us in 2017 for Audubon Rockies sponsored volunteer wetland and riparian restoration projects across Colorado. Project days give greater awareness to ecological functions and values and are rewarding learning experiences. Watch your email for upcoming projects!

#3 Personal water stewardship. The term “water footprint" is a measure of water use, and can be calculated for individuals, businesses, cities, and beyond. Reducing your personal water footprint can go a long way in helping rivers.  Colorado consumes on average 5.3 million acre feet per year. Of that, approximately 17% is from groundwater and 83% is from surface water. An average Colorado household uses less than half of one acre-foot of water per year (~150,000 gallons). Using less water in and around your home will help reduce water bills as well as burdens on rivers -on both sides of the Continental Divide. 

 #4 Native landscaping.   Give your landscape an ecological and water reduction makeover. Reduce or say goodbye to your thirsty lawn and create water thrifty beautiful native habitat. Cherry Creek 3 HOA neighborhood in southeast Denver saved 15 million gallons of water and $100,000 annually by transforming to native landscaping and incorporating water efficiency into everyday life. HOA Volunteer President Don Ireland lead volunteers of his 251-condo development into a new era of water conservation while simultaneously establishing a new landscaping plan that has attracted many new birds and pollinators into the neighborhood. This HOA, without formal training in water conservation but with a burning desire to "do the right thing" has been a poster child for water conservation and Audubon Rockies’ Habitat Hero program around the Front Range of Colorado and beyond. Please visit: Audubon's Plants for Birds and Audubon Rockies’ Habitat Hero programs for plants and plans to help transform your landscape into a water efficient beautiful native habitat.

#5 Make time to visit and discover a healthy flowing river. Float, bike, hike, or go bird watching at your favorite river. (Re)Connect to your local river and experience the thriving ecosystems that healthy rivers and their riparian habitats are.  It is important to remember why we are working with decision makers at the federal, state, and local levels to influence water policy. Rivers need us now more than ever. Together we can make a difference for the essential river habitats that we all depend on. 

Winter Water Webinar Series - Starting January 25th 


Audubon Rockies’ Winter Water Webinars beginning January 25th noon-1PM MTN. Dr. Chris Rasmussen, of EcoMainstream Contracting, will take us on a tour contrasting free flowing rivers and restricted rivers from unique perspectives: Blue, the role of water, mobilizing and shaping; Brown, the role of sediment, filling, re-routing and building; and Green, growing, holding and slowing all things mobile. Watch your email for more information and registration. This is an opportunity not to be missed!


Join Western Rivers Action Network Now

Community Naturalist Program


Community Naturalists Looking Forward to an Amazing 2017


Now that 2016 is behind us, Audubon Community Naturalists look forward to an amazing 2017 full of education, outreach, and community involvement.  Last year saw us work with 6000  students in Wyoming and Colorado, win a national award, and continue to evolve the program so that it most effectively meets the needs of teachers, students, and the citizens of Colorado and Wyoming who rely on us to bring them the most up to date conservation updates, citizen science projects and innovative school programs. 
Our traveling trunk program has expanded exponentially this past year and we expect it to continue to grow so as we work to meet the demand that we have received for these wonderful trunks.  With the addition of 6 new trunks, we hope to meet the expectations of the teachers and agencies who have come to rely on the trunks as a valuable educational resource. Along with the traveling trunk, the Community Naturalist team is working on a book that will be a new resource for educators that highlights the sagebrush ecosystem and our new mascot Rockie the Owl.


In central Wyoming, we will expand our MAPS bird banding program to include 2 stations in Casper, as well as the site of this year’s BioBlitz which will be held June 23-25th.  In Colorado we will expand our reach with summer camps, teacher trainings, and more community outreach in the cities of Pagosa Springs, Durango and Gunnison. 
We will also continue to work with landowners in Wyoming and Colorado on our Conservation Ranching program and increase participation as we move toward a “grazed on bird friendly land” designation for these hard working ranchers.   Our hope is to increase market opportunities for the ranchers who are doing things to benefit the birds of the Rockies.  This program has the ability to bridge the gap  between conservation and agriculture in a way that has never been seen before.   
All in all, the Community Naturalist Program would like to thank everyone who helped us keep this program running in 2016,  and to let you know that we are excited to  move forward  with the strategic plan as we  promote and implement the programs which Inspire connections between people and nature.

A Christmas (Bird Count) Story!


As of writing this article, I am in the heat of Christmas Bird Count Season. It is one of my favorite times for birdwatching. There aren’t oodles of rare birds in Wyoming currently, but to me Christmas Bird Counts (and bird watching competitions) are prime story-making time. I am going to share with you my recollections of my first Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

I was coming into Christmas break in my junior year at Northwest Missouri State University. I had been seeing signs all week to volunteer in the Maryville Christmas Bird Count and to contact our ecology advisor to participate. I didn’t know what participating meant, but I stopped into his office the last day of finals. He gave me a hearty slap on the back, told me where to meet, and what to bring. I was nervous. He said bird guide and binoculars, but all I had was a bird encyclopedia and a $25 pair of Wal-Mart camouflage binoculars. Clearly, I was out of my league.

We met before sunrise on that December morning, inside a McDonald’s. Stepping off track for a moment, I wonder how many CBC’s meet at McDonald’s… Back to my story. I unwisely ate breakfast at the fast-food joint, as I was a college student who preferred to sleep in and not make breakfast. This decision meant little now, but would haunt me hours later. I was assigned to tally in the northern area of our circle and departed with my professor’s former student.

My theme for the morning is easily understood. I didn’t know birds. That’s really all there is to say. Plus, I want to get to the fun part of the story.

In the afternoon, the former student had to leave the count, and I was to be the recorder for my professor. This is where the story takes off. I have never been carsick in my entire life. However, this was my first time riding with my professor, who I will call Doc moving forward. Doc took the CBC very seriously. More than anyone I have met since. We were a bolt of lightning between every powerline, tree line, and watering hole. One stop in particular things turned south for me and my stomach. We visited the local sewage ponds, and Doc drove the dikes between the ponds with great haste and slick maneuvers. However, between McDonald’s breakfast and this new style of driving (I have now adapted and even perform this style), I was in need of a rest stop. Unfortunately for me, Doc did not have any planned, and we stick to the schedule on CBC’s. So, while Doc picked a Greater White-fronted Goose out of a flock of Canada Geese, I used a fencepost and performed the “bears in the woods” task. At 90% completion, I realized what no birder should ever hope to. I was without the soft, white rolls of hope (TP). I was in an awkward position. Literally. Dare I yell out to Doc about my predicament and forever seal my fate as THAT new birder? No, I adapt! My college education kicked into gear, and I realized I had worn an extra undershirt that day. I will let you fill in the details from there. Nothing else to see here folks. Move along.

You make it? Good. Me too. This was not the end of the story for my first Christmas Bird Count, but this is where I stop writing for this newsletter. I will include the next bit of the story in the February newsletter. Have a Happy New Year, and always remember the Charmin.

Photo by Peter G. Arnold.

Biodiversity in 2017


Happy New Year to all of you Audubon supporters!  Thank you for caring about the condition of our planet and all the critters that inhabit it.  As we enter the year of 2017, let’s put the health of our flora and fauna first by encouraging biodiversity (variety of life in the world) this year.  After all, without biodiversity, research has proven a subsequent decline in such ecosystem services as the presence of pollinators, water filtration, pest regulation, and wildlife and fisheries abundance (Altieri 2004).      
One exceptional way to increase your local biodiversity is to plant native plants.  Native plants are critical to the health of our ecosystems, providing a level of fitness that non-native species cannot fulfill when considering habitat longevity and species richness (Isaacs et al. 2009).  Birds rely heavily on historically native plant food sources.  Not only do they forage on Rocky Mountain juniper or mountain ash berries in fall and winter, but also they eat insects nearly year round.  And where do insects get their best nutrition?  From native plants!  The most important ecosystem distinction between native plants and non-native plants is their ability to promote and sustain local food webs (Burghardt and Tallamy 2013). 

January 16, 2017, marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  In addition to acknowledging and respecting racial equality this year, let’s step it up yet another notch and welcome the equality of all living creatures by celebrating biodiversity, in all its colors, forms, and functions.  By planting native plants and welcoming back historical populations of pollinators, we possess the ability to restore the health of our lands, improving biodiversity and regaining ecological function.
Check out current online databases, such as National Audubon Society’s “Native Plants Database” and “Plants for Birds” ( &  These resources provide interested parties with native plant selections for their growing region and zone.  Simply enter one’s zip code and the database purveys plant recommendations and nearby native plant nurseries and resources.
- Keith Bruno, SW Colorado Community Naturalist
Altieri, M. A. 2004. Agroecology versus Ecoagriculture: balancing food
production and biodiversity conservation in the midst of social
inequity. Commission on Environmental, Economic & Social Policy CEESP Occasional Papers, 8-28.
Burghardt, K. T., & Tallamy, D. W. (2013). Plant origin asymmetrically
impacts feeding guilds and life stages driving community structure of herbivorous arthropods. Diversity and Distributions19(12), 1553-1565.
Isaacs, R., Tuell, J., Fiedler, A., Gardiner, M., & Landis, D. (2009).
Maximizing arthropod‐mediated ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes: the role of native plants. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment7(4), 196-203.
National Audubon Society, “Native Plant Database.”  Retrieved from:
National Audubon Society, “Plants for Birds.”  Retrieved from:

Habitat Hero Program


Happy Holidays and New Year from Habitat Hero!

On behalf of Audubon Rockies, we wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy holiday season!  We are extremely grateful for the growth of our Habitat Hero program and thank you for helping us to make 2016 a great year!  Our fiscal year of 2015 which ran from July 1, 2015 thru June 30, 2016 we were able to reach 3,703 adults and children across 15 counties and recognized 62 Habitat Hero gardens, which converted more than 200 acres of habitat by planting 56, 847 native plants that support birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators!

We know our coveted backyard certification program is the cu degras of the program and want to share with you our latest Habitat Heroes that have received recognition in fiscal year 2016.  Thus far, 52 Habitat Heroes have received recognition and to take a look at some of these wonderful photos, visit here or read our blog.  Remember, this application is open year round and we look forward to working with you to make your gardening efforts a success that you can brag about while providing quality habitat for a whole host of critters!  Visit our application page for more information.   


To give you some inspiration to incorporate wildscaping principles and design ideas into your own garden, we have lined up some Habitat Hero workshops in 2017, and hope to see you there!

Again, thank you to all of our amazing gardeners, friends, supporters and donors to help make our program an ever-growing success and we look forward to what the New Year will bring!


Wildscaping Ambassador Train-the-Trainer 2017 Workshops Announced


Audubon Rockies formed a partnership with Colorado Native Plant Society and High Plains Environmental Center to solidify a speaker’s bureau. Our pilot Wildscape Ambassador Train-the-Trainer workshops were a success53 volunteers were trained on spreading the word about actively restoring natural habitat for birds, butterflies, and other pollinators by implementing water-wise and native gardens on our landscapes.  We provided these future ambassadors with the tools of the trade, including how to present to a local garden center/nursery, HOA, library, community organization etc… on the importance of creating native plant gardens, that not only create a welcome place for birds, but benefit the environment and our communities too!  
**Special Notes: Attendees will receive a Wildscape Ambassador Handbook and invitation to our network sharing platform. Food provided.  

We are now excited to announce these dates and locations for our 2017 workshops.  Registration links are below.  

**Special** Habitat Hero Workshop, January 28
Habitat Heroes Grow for Butterflies, Bees and Birds with Jan Dorn, co-author of Growing Native Plants of the Rocky Mountain Area.  Workshop a part of High Plains Gardening Lecture Series.
1-3pm, Larmie County Public Library, Cheyenne


Wildscape Ambassador Training, February 25 
Venue TBD, Longmont
Registration Coming Soon!

Wildscape Ambassador Training, February 28
10-12pm & 1-3pm
Morrison Nature Center, Aurora

Register for 10am workshop
Register for 1pm workshop

Wildscape Ambassador Training, March 4

Penrose House Conference Center, Colorado Springs


Wildscape Ambassador Training, March 17
Audubon Society of Greater Denver Nature Center, Littleton


Wildscape Ambassador Training, March 18
Rawlings Public Library, Pueblo


Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative


USFWS Announces Big Changes to National Eagle Permit Regulations (12/16/16)


Bald and Golden Eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, both of which prohibit “take.”  However, death or disturbance can occur unintentionally, hence the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) developed a voluntary permit to account for these back in 2009.  These regulations have recently been changed and will go into effect on January 17.

The USFWS issued its final changes to the regulations for eagle non-purposeful take permits and eagle nest take permits.  It includes changes to the permit issuance criteria and duration, definitions, compensatory mitigation standards, criteria for eagle nest removal permits, permit application requirements (including survey/monitoring standards) and permit costs. Now approved
Positive aspects to these rule revisions include considering local eagle populations, requiring third-party monitoring for permits with durations longer than 5 years, and standardizing and expanding mitigation options (currently only do power pole retrofits).  Despite these improvements, Audubon remains concerned about the lack of scientific justification and the concern for the impact this will have on already compromised eagle populations, especially Golden Eagles, raises concerns over the ability for permits to extend to 30 years (currently 5 years).
The USFWS estimates the current total population size of Golden Eagles to be about 40,000 birds (includes Alaska).  They also suggest that the population in the western United States might be declining. According to USFWS, “The best available information indicates that ongoing levels of human-caused mortality of golden eagles likely exceed sustainable take rates, potentially significantly.”
To address this, USFWS specifies, “We believe that permitting long-term activities that are likely to incidentally take eagles, including working with project proponents to minimize the impacts and secure compensatory mitigation, will enhance eagle conservation in contrast to project proponents avoiding the permitting process altogether because they perceive the process as overly onerous.”
Audubon has engaged in every step of the public commenting opportunity, providing extensive comments with partner conservation organizations and working to engage chapters and members.



Eagle Take Permit for Largest Wind Farm is One Step Closer to Being Finalized (12/8/16)


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released the Final Environmental Impact Statement that continues the analysis of 4 alternatives for protecting eagles at the Power Company of Wyoming’s (PCW) Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Phase I Wind Energy Project (CCSM).  If fully developed with 1000 wind turbines in south-central Wyoming, CCSM would be one of the largest land-based wind energy projects in N. America, projected to produce enough electricity to power nearly 1million homes. 
This take permit is for the first 500 turbines (another permit is going to be pursued for the second 500 turbines), referred to as “Phase I”. If the Eagle Take Permit is approved in a record of decision, which could be granted as early as next month, operation of the first phase would be able to take no more than 2 bald eagles and 14 golden eagles annually, depending on the final turbine design, according to USFWS. Take covers death or injury of the birds, but also loss of productivity or abandonment of nests.

Compensatory mitigation is not required for bald eagles because, according to the USFWS, their abundance can withstand the impacts of the project.  However, Golden Eagle take must be compensated for to ensure the population remains stable. To that end, PCW has committed to retrofitting thousands of older power poles currently in use that pose an electrocution hazard to eagles.  
This permit (which is expected to be issued via two permits – one for construction and another for operation) is the first one to be applied for in WY and only the second in the country expected to be approved, following 2
federal lawsuits for illegal “take” in WY.  Through the current permitting system, PCW worked voluntarily with USFWS to avoid and minimize eagle loss and gather essential information about eagles in hopes of minimizing impacts to eagles. In return for their conservation efforts, a company may be authorized to “take” (disturb, harm or kill) a limited number of eagles that cannot be avoided without federal prosecution.
The company, PCW, is expected to also pursue an eagle take permits for Phase II - the remaining 500 turbines along the eastern portion of the project area.  Early estimates suggest this second half of the wind facility may result in an additional 1-2 bald eagles and 25-32 golden eagles killed per year.  According to PCW, the first turbines will not be installed until 2018 and all 500 should be in place by 2020.  This project has been a priority for the Obama administration and its unprecedented effort to use federal lands to develop commercial-scale wind, solar and geothermal power projects.
Audubon has engaged in every step of the public commenting opportunity, providing extensive comments with partner conservation organizations and working directly with the operator and USFWS to understand the project.

  • You can access the federal documents at the USFWS website for Phase 1.



BLM Releases Draft EIS on Proposed Withdrawl in Crucial Sage-Grouse Habitat (12/29/16)


As part of its continuing efforts to conserve habitat vital to healthy populations of the Greater Sage-Grouse in the West, the BLM announced the draft proposal to withdraw a subset of lands that are sage-grouse strongholds from future mining claims. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzes 5 alternatives - ranging from no action to the withdrawal of approximately 10 million acres of federal locatable minerals in certain areas that are particularly crucial to the Greater Sage-Grouse in six states: ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, and WY.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell first announced the proposed withdrawal in September, 2015, as part of the unprecedented, landscape-scale effort that began with BLM’s and its state and federal partners’ successful efforts to prevent the Greater Sage-Grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act. After a public comment, which ends 3/30/17, President-elect Donald Trump's administration will decide which option to choose, if any. It's not yet clear whether Trump or his choice for Interior Secretary, Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana, would continue to pursue the current sage grouse conservation plans, modify them or scrap them.
A fact sheet, draft EIS and Notice of Amended Proposed Withdrawal, dates and times for public meetings and a map of the proposed withdrawals are available here



Two Major High-Voltage Transmission Lines Receive Final Approval (12/13/16)


After numerous years of review, required by the National Environmental Protection Act, the BLM finally approved the TransWest Express and Gateway South transmission lines.  Over 1100 more miles of high-voltage transmission lines will start in Wyoming and terminate in NV and UT, respectively.


PacifiCorp (doing business as Rocky Mountain Power) filed a formal Notice of Intent in 2011 for a right-of-way (ROW) to construct, operate and maintain a 500 kV overhead, known as Gateway South Transmission Line Project.  This alternating current transmission line will cross 416 miles of land in WY, CO, and UT (228 miles of which are BLM public lands).
TransWest Express LLC (subsidiary of the Anschutz Corporation) has been working on the permitting of this transmission line since 2005.  This high-voltage 600 kV overhead transmission line will traverse 725-miles of WY, CO, UT, and NV (442 miles of which are BLM public lands).  This direct current transmission line will carry up to 3,000 megawatts of wind energy from Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind farm (same operators) for use by population centers in CA, NV, and AZ.
These lines build on the Department of Interior’s efforts over the past eight years to work with state and local leaders to tap the West’s renewable energy resources. The DOI has approved 60 utility-scale projects, including 36 solar, 11 wind and 13 geothermal proposals.  The Obama Administration made transmission lines a presidential priority in 2009; since then Interior has approved 54 such projects, spanning 4,200 miles, to help unlock wind and solar resources that cannot be currently accessed due to lack of infrastructure to bring energy to the markets.  At times, administrative priorities conflicted – such as with these lines and sage-grouse (where overlap happened in critical habitat) – causing permitting delays.
Audubon has engaged in every step of the public commenting opportunity, providing extensive comments with partner conservation organizations.  While efforts were made by BLM and the operators to minimize wildlife impacts along portions of the routes, Audubon remains deeply concerned over the final location of the routes (which run parallel) and the anticipated impacts to high quality habitat – most notably in northwest Colorado.  Uncertainty still remains over how impacts will be mitigated.




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