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Senators Udall, Heinrich Introduce Legislation to Codify No-Drilling Buffer Zone around Chaco

New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced legislation on May 23rd to codify into law a 10-mile buffer zone restricting new oil and gas extraction around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The Bureau of Land Management originally promised not to offer oil and gas leases in this area. However, the agency included parcels within the buffer zone in a lease sale it later deferred in response to public outcry. The legislation is a first step to provide some much-needed relief for the area, where it is common to see methane flares and heavy equipment when approaching the park.

Read more from Western Environmental Law Center’s press statement here.

A group of people sitting around black tables strewn with pens and notebooks. In the back are posters covered with sticky notes.

A session for emerging leaders on Day 1 of MadCon, the first session in a series of events for young conservationists. Photo: Leslie Ann Epperson

Sky Island Alliance’s 2018 Madrean Conference Attracts Hundreds in Tucson, AZ

Western Wildway Network partner Sky Island Alliance once again hosted a successful Biodiversity and Management of the Madrean Archipelago Conference (known throughout the Southwest as MadCon) from May 14-18. The conference attracted hundreds of scientists, agency managers, conservation advocates and students to participate in wide-ranging discussions about borderlands ecology and management. Events during the conference included a binational borderlands photo exhibit hosted at the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, a workshop for emerging leaders in conservation, and a full day program on herpetology in the region.

Proceedings from the conference will be published by the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station. Until then, you can read more highlights from the conference here.

A map highlighting Mexican wolf habitat connectivity from most conductance to most resistance.

Map showing Mexican wolf habitat connectivity. High resolution maps available to the media. Map: Wildlands Network and Grand Canyon Wildlands Council

New Connectivity Analysis Demonstrates Importance of Public Lands for Mexican Wolf Recovery

On May 23, Wildlands Network, along with our partner organization, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, released maps showing new connectivity analysis, completed by contractor Birds Eye GIS, for the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area. The analysis, designed to identify landscape connectivity and major linkages between intact habitat areas for Mexican wolves, was completed using Circuitscape and LinkageMapper software. For the first time, the most advanced connectivity mapping tools were applied to the U.S. recovery area for Mexican wolves, contributing to the body of science and research used to assist in wolf recovery.

The findings of the analysis show the importance of national forest lands in Arizona and New Mexico, especially the remote forested areas running along the Mogollon Rim between northern Arizona and western New Mexico’s Gila National Forest.

“The Forest Service, along with all public land managers in the Southwest, have a duty to assist Mexican wolf recovery through responsible management,” said Kim Crumbo, conservation director for Wildlands Network. “We hope that by providing these agencies with better information about likely wolf movement patterns, they can take proactive measures to maintain the ecological integrity of habitat and to implement human-wolf conflict avoidance strategies, which together are critical to successful recovery of the Lobo.”

Read our press release and find out more about the project here.


Rocky Mountain Wild Launches Innovative I-70 Audio Tour in Colorado

It’s rare for an average commuter or driver to ponder how the road on which they are driving affects the surrounding environment at any given moment. But Western Wildway Network partner Rocky Mountain Wild has developed a new app-based audio tour to inspire people to do just that.

Called the “Wild I-70,” the newly released audio tour relies on GPS technology to guide listeners through the environment beyond their windshields as they traverse Interstate-70 in Colorado, which runs from Golden to Glenwood Springs. Offering stories, unusual facts, and science-based perspectives on how wild animals like lynx and wolves use important movement corridors around I-70, the tour is designed to keep people alert to potential wildlife near the roads and to inspire greater awareness of how we can help protect our shared spaces, such as through the construction of the first wildlife overpass on I-70, the “I-70 Wild Byway.”

Find out more and download the tour before your next road trip here.


Yellowstone to Uintas Connection Expands Field Work and Monitoring in the Bear River Range

Yellowstone to Unitas (Y2U) has had a busy and successful first half of the year pursuing on-the-ground projects in the Bear River Range. They have 16 cameras out in the range to capture images for our Northern Bear River Range wildlife survey. Come July, these cameras will have been in place for a year. When the snow melts, Y2U will head into the mountains to retrieve the images and analyze the results.  Hopefully, there will be wildlife photos to share with everyone this summer!

Additionally, last winter, Y2U’s Ecological Technician, Casey, worked with Utah State University student Eric Ethington and other volunteers on his Mesocarnivore Survey in the Bear River Range. Eric organized snow tracking trainings and used transects to get an idea of what species are located in the area. Eric and his volunteers also worked with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to put up game cameras and bait stations in the Bear River Range with the hope of capturing photos of wolverines. Y2U will retrieve cameras from this study early in the summer.

And finally, keep an eye out for updates from Y2U this summer as they monitor water quality for E. coli in the Bear River Watershed; head out to the Uinta Mountains to monitor grazing management on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache and Ashley national forests; monitor grazing management on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest; and work on more illegal road and trail closures within the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache and Caribou-Targhee national forests.

This is a closeup photo of a bird of prey, with a naked head and a crown of black feathers that covers its entire body.

California condor. Photo: Chuck Szmurlo

Report Highlights Threats Facing California Condor in Grand Canyon National Park

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) recently released a report on “The 10 National Parks with the Most Endangered Species.” Highlighted within the findings was the plight of the California condor, a large native scavenger that was on the brink of extinction before a captive breeding and release program was implemented in the 1980s. Since then, the number of condors has increased in the wild, but fewer than 100 can be found soaring the skies around Grand Canyon.

The greatest threat to condor in the wild in northern Arizona and southern Utah, you might be surprised to learn, is lead poisoning. Because these birds scavenge off carcasses, they are likely to come across deer and other animals shot with lead ammunition, which is still the most widely used form of hunting ammo in the United States.

Wildlands Network has long advocated for better regulation and management of lead ammunition. California passed a ban on lead ammunition in 2013, which will take effect next year. Other states, like Utah, have adopted voluntary lead-reduction measures, which most hunters have adopted. However, it only takes one lead-contaminated meal for a condor to become poisoned and eventually die. That’s why we’re pressuring the Forest Service to ban lead ammunition in the Kaibab National Forest, which surrounds Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has resisted these efforts, so we took them to court and are awaiting a decision in that case.

You can learn more about the opportunities and threats for condor recovery in Grand Canyon by reading Kim Crumbo’s recent blog post on the issue here.


Conservationists Celebrate as Iconic Castle Parks in Alberta Are Protected by New Management Plan

Located in the Crown of the Continent region, the Castle Parks form an iconic Albertan landscape that provides habitat for native species, hosts the headwater streams for communities across Alberta and contains exceptional recreational opportunities in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Working together, local stakeholders, including indigenous tribes, conservation groups, government officials, recreation groups and citizens, designed and secured the new management plan to protect precious resources for future generations.

“The Castle is a vital piece of the puzzle in the Yellowstone to Yukon vision,” says Connie Simmons, local resident and planning coordinator with Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “This is about protecting and connecting people and nature. I am looking forward to seeing how greatly-needed economic diversification for local communities will be supported by the Castle Parks.”

Read more about the plan and the community’s support here.



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Katie Davis
Western Director

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