Articles

“Trump administration reauthorizes lethal cyanide device for predator control” Boulder Weekly, January 9, 2020

Canyon Mansfield and his dog, Casey, set out from their home in suburban Pocatello, Idaho, one day in 2017. They walked up the hill behind their home where they often went together so Canyon, a teenager, could work on homework and pray. At the top of the hill, Canyon saw something resembling a small pipe sticking out of the ground. As he inspected it, the device popped and blasted a misty orange substance all over him and his dog. He had just enough time to shield his mouth, nose and one of his eyes from what was meant to be a lethal dose (for coyotes) of sodium cyanide.

“Are state actions increasing the risk of cougars attacking people?” Boulder Weekly, September 12, 2019

The three cougar attacks on people in Colorado this year have made headlines around the world. This reflects not only how rare such attacks are, but also how unusual it is to have so many in one state in such a short period of time. The first occurred near Fort Collins in February, the second occurred near Kremmling in August and the third, and most recent, occurred near Bailey last month. The first two attacks were on adult men, while the latter was on an 8-year-old boy playing in his backyard. Young cougars were responsible for each of these attacks, a fact that may hold clues as to why these incidents have happened this year.

Oil industry exemptions may doom EPA efforts to improve Front Range air quality,” Boulder Weekly, August 22, 2019

Each morning the Earth turns east in its orbit and the sun’s rays hit the highest peaks in Colorado. As the foothills and mountains heat up, the cool air that cascaded down them at night heats and rises up and away. As this nearly daily cycle occurs, air is drawn in from the eastern plains to replace the rising air of the foothills. Unfortunately for Front Range communities, this replacement air comes from an area where large numbers of oil and gas wells spew ozone precursors including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the air. As these pollutants are drawn west toward the mountains, they too are heated by the sun and undergo a photochemical reaction, becoming ozone. This ozone is trapped in polluted air and eddies above western parts of Golden, Boulder, Loveland and Fort Collins. And as a result, this area is known to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the Northern Colorado Front Range (NCFR) Nonattainment Area.

“Colorado Rising files motion to reopen Longmont fracking ban case,” Boulder Weekly, August 22, 2019

In a surprising move following on the heels of the passage and signing of Colorado Senate Bill 19-181 — a piece of legislation said to be intended to return regulation over oil and gas extraction within communities to the communities themselves — the group Colorado Rising for Communities filed a motion in Boulder County District Court designed to reinstate Longmont’s ban on fracking.

“Spray to play: despite the public’s long-held opposition to chemical management of open space lands, Boulder County continues the practice,” Boulder Weekly, August 15, 2019

For at least the past 17 years, the residents of Boulder County have been making their opposition to using chemicals such as glyphosate on public lands known to their elected officials. In response to the public’s concerns, the City of Boulder stopped using glyphosate in 2011. But as has been well documented in recent years, Boulder County has not followed the City’s lead. Despite having several County Commissioner elections in the past that were centered around promises to eliminate GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops and thereby the use of glyphosate on the County’s open space lands, these campaign promises have gone unfulfilled. There have been a series of five-year extensions given to the farmers leasing open space lands and, to date, the use of glyphosate on GMO crops continues.

“A tale of two travelers: the unsolved killing of a wolf in 2009 is a cautionary tale for the one now running wild in Colorado,” Boulder Weekly, July 25, 2019

A gray wolf has appeared in Colorado and is running free in the Rockies. On July 8, the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife (CPW) released photos of a dark male wolf ranging through a green mountain valley in Jackson County, Colorado. The following day, Governor Jared Polis tweeted a video of the wolf that was filmed by a private citizen. The wolf is wearing a radio telemetry collar, evidence that it likely has ventured to our state from the wolf packs in and around Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.

“Midnight on the prairie: Is there still time for America to save this vital bird?” Boulder Weekly, July 3, 2019

Dressed in feathers banded to disguise her among the shadows of prairie grass, a female lesser prairie chicken perches atop a dry plant stalk overlooking the southeastern Colorado plains, chortling to her potential cohort in a singular way reminiscent of an underwater coo. Her male counterpart struts beneath her on his lek (their mating ground) with head angled down and feathers from his head pointing toward the horizon. With breast puffed up, he reveals a brilliant orange air sac on his throat and bright yellow comb above his eyes as he dances for her, booming a sound that echoes across the prairie. But such is the rarest of sights these days.

“New study: when it comes to mountain lions and mule deer, it’s not either/or,” Boulder Weekly, Apr. 18, 2019

In theory, it’s logical to assume that controlling predators by reducing their numbers in the wild would allow the numbers of prey species like deer and elk to increase — all the while, removing competition for shared resources such as big game hunting. But that’s not what a new study by Dr. Mark Elbroch, puma program director for the global wild cat conservation organization Panthera, has found.

“Tales from the Swamp: Trump’s controversial nomination of David Bernhardt to oversee our public lands,” Boulder Weekly, Mar. 28, 2019

Even as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) were introducing the Green New Deal with hopes of directly engaging the threat of fossil fuel-driven climate change, President Donald Trump was nominating former lobbyist and native Coloradan David Bernhardt to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), which oversees our public lands and wildlife. These two actions could not be more at odds.

“The King’s forest or the people’s lands,” Boulder Weekly, Dec. 20, 2018. *This story won third place in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Top of The Rockies contest.

With tin cup in hand, fully clad in hunting camouflage, and with binoculars for spotting game strapped to his chest, Donald Trump Jr. sits around a fire at “hunting camp.” This image of Trump Jr. as a rugged hunter came compliments of a 2016 presidential campaign ad entitled, “Heartland for Trump.”

“If you don’t start being vocal and show up, and vote your conscience on these things, it’s going to be gone because the other side — their hobby is getting rid of your freedoms and your pastime, especially when it’s hunting,” Trump Jr. proclaims in the video ad.

In this message and others that ran throughout the 2016 election on the internet, in print, and on television, Trump Jr. worked to embody the persona of a hunter and angler, aka a “sportsman” in political advertising vernacular. He also effected this persona at campaign rallies. Altogether, it was an effort to capture critically needed votes for his father, and it’s an effort Trump Jr. continues to this day.

“The Intimidation of Democracy,” Boulder Weekly, July 26, 2018

People gathering signatures for Ballot Initiative 97, which would increase the minimum distance between oil and gas development and homes, schools and other vulnerable areas to 2,500 feet, are claiming protesters are being organized to stifle their efforts and deter citizens from signing.

Colorado Rising, a group promoting Initiative 97, has alleged that signature-gatherers are facing targeted protests verging on harassment in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins and Greeley. They’ve documented on audio and video recordings protesters interrupting conversations, and have engaged police in several situations to determine whether protesters are committing criminal acts of harassment.

“Death toll rising: more animals killed under CPW’s predator control plan as lawsuits pile up,” Boulder Weekly, July 19, 2018

Despite significant opposition, USDA Wildlife Services has continued with its assistance of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Piceance Basin predator control plan for the second of three years (See Boulder Weekly’s “Off Target” series).

The work took place this past May and June. CPW refers to the control plan as a “study,” which has resulted in the killing of up to 15 mountain lions and 25 black bears in the Piceance Basin of northwestern Colorado so far. Critics allege it is a scientifically unsound and illegal attempt to boost mule deer fawn survival rates and, therefore, mule deer populations.

If, after the study concludes, CPW asserts there is a causal link between killing predators and increased mule deer populations as a result of its plan, such killing — and its collateral damage — could become commonplace on Colorado’s public lands with potentially no real benefit for mule deer populations. 

“‘Sportsmen’ beware: Why is the oil and gas industry manipulating certain voters?” Boulder Weekly, June 7, 2018

In the world of oil and gas in Colorado, there is no single group of citizens more important to the industry’s ability to continue its fracking and energy extraction on public lands or in close proximity to homes, schools and neighborhoods than the people the industry refers to simply as “sportsmen.” And there is a good reason these folks who enjoy the great outdoors garner such attention.

“Protect the Children: the disobedient spirit of democracy,” Fort Collins Courier and Boulder Weekly, April/May 2018

On the morning of March 8, accompanied by a small group of activists, 23-year old Cullen Lobe, a journalism and environmental affairs student at Colorado State University, walked up to a bulldozer as it was excavating a well pad and oil and gas production facility site owned by Extraction Oil and Gas. The driver turned off the machine as Lobe stood in its path. Lobe spoke with the driver, explaining he held nothing against him personally but rather was protesting the massive oil and gas extraction location where he was working because of its close proximity to an elementary school.

“Humane Society joins effort to stop the killing of mountain lions and black bears” March 15, 2018, Boulder Weekly

On March 8, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The suit claims that federal environmental requirements were bypassed in funding and facilitating Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) Piceance Basin and Upper Arkansas River Predator Control Plans, which mandate the killing of black bears and mountain lions in an effort to boost mule deer populations on the West Slope of Colorado. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a grant covering 75 percent, or $3.43 million, of the total project cost of CPW’s two plans. The federal money used for this grant is specifically intended for wildlife restoration purposes and is derived from excise taxes collected on purchases of hunting and shooting equipment.

“Off Target Series: How do you kill mountain lions that are already gone?” February 15, 2018, Boulder Weekly

As of Feb. 9, it appears there is yet more research the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife (CPW) will need to ignore in order to continue with its controversial Piceance Basin Predator Control Plan. As has been previously reported in this series, the plan calls for the killing of mountain lions and black bears to increase mule deer populations.

The new research found the current mountain lion population in an area adjacent to the lands covered by the Piceance plan is far lower than expected, which means the same may be true for mountain lion populations in the Piceance plan area. If true, CPW’s Piceance plan could potentially wipe out, rather than simply shrink, the area’s existing mountain lion population.

“Will Coloradans free wolves on state’s public lands?” February 1, 2018, Boulder Weekly *This story won second place in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Top of The Rockies contest.

pair of gray wolves stand on a ridge looking out across an endless alpine expanse of forested valleys that fall from peaks into rivers, searching for a place to live that can provide all that they need — a place, if the experts are right, like Western Colorado. Unfortunately, such a vision is but fantasy in our state. For aside from the rare wolves who end up here by accident — disappearing almost as they appear — Colorado is without a population of wolves.

“Off Target 11: Time running out for lions, bears and your comments,” January 18, 2018, Boulder Weekly.

In mid-December, the USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services (WS) released its pre-decisional Draft Environmental Assessment for its predator damage management in Colorado. The draft is now in its 45-day public comment period, which ends on Jan. 24. After that, WS will issue either a Finding of No Significant Impact and move to finalize the assessment, or a Finding of Significance, which would require the agency to complete a full and much more detailed Environmental Impact Statement by Aug. 1, 2018.

Off Target 10: Is dividing by five hiding the real culprit? Stay agreement temporarily stops the killing of bears and mountain lions,” November 16, 2017, Boulder Weekly.

On Nov. 6, 2017, WildEarth Guardians (WEG) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to a hold on their lawsuit against the USDA-Wildlife Services (WS), among others. The agreement to stay the proceedings was signed by the two environmental organizations and WS in regards to a lawsuit filed in U.S. district court on April 12. The lawsuit in question pertained to the predator control plans put forward by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), which are intended to boost mule deer population growth.

Off Target, Part 9,” October 5, 2017, Boulder Weekly.

On Sept. 11, the State of Colorado filed a brief in response to the lawsuit brought against the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) Piceance Basin and Upper Arkansas River Predator Control Plans. The suit was filed by WildEarth Guardians’ (WEG) (see “Off target: Part 8,” Aug. 31).

The brief, in defense of CPW’s predator plans disputes the arguments made in an earlier WEG brief in the case that claimed CPW’s plans are a violation of the 1996 trapping ban (Colorado Constitution Amendment 14) and its implementing legislation. Purported violations include the CPW commission never actually determining whether the management plans meet the regulatory definition of bona fide scientific research before approving them. In addition, it’s claimed the plans don’t meet the definition of “research” because they were not designed to provide strong scientific inferences that would pass peer review and/or meet the requirements for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The lawsuit also argues the killing of black bears and mountain lions will not be implemented in a humane fashion by qualified personnel, aka the USDA’s Wildlife Services (WS).

Off Target, Part 8: What’s in a name? Lawsuit challenges state’s predator plans ‘scientific research’ credentials,” August 31, 2017, Boulder Weekly

The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) predator plans call for the killing of Colorado’s iconic mountain lions and black bears in what is alleged to be an attempt to more rapidly increase mule deer populations in areas where they’re already steadily increasing. Critics of the plans assert that cumulative impacts from oil and gas extraction are far more likely the reason for the mule deer’s struggles than predation. As a result of these disparate opinions, two lawsuits challenging the plans have been filed.

On Aug. 14, Stuart Wilcox, staff attorney for WildEarth Guardians (WEG), filed the group’s opening brief in its lawsuit challenging CPW’s Piceance Basin and Upper Arkansas River predator control plans, asking the Court to declare the plans illegal and vacate their Dec. 14 approval by the CPW Commission.

“Off Target, Part 7: New study and information appear to delegitimize CPW’s predator control plans,” June 29, 2017, Boulder Weekly

Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) $4.6 million predator control plans, which mandate the killing of hundreds of mountain lions and black bears in an attempt to boost mule deer populations on the Western Slope, are presently the subject of two lawsuits filed by WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The lawsuits claim the management plan, which is being implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (WS) branch, is ineffective and doesn’t factor in the oil and gas industry’s effect on mule deer populations in the Piceance Basin and Upper Arkansas River.

Off Target, Part 6: Bears were relocated into area where state is now killing bears,” June 1, 2017, Boulder Weekly

Soon after the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (CPW)approved two predator control plans on Dec. 14, 2016, it was revealed that CPW has been routinely relocating “nuisance” black bears into the Piceance Basin, which is one of the two predator control areas where the state plans to start killing black bears and mountain lions. 

CPW claims the killing of these predators is necessary because the areas in question have seen increased predation on mule deer fawns. Despite its own research that has found oil and gas operations and habitat loss due to human encroachment are the primary drivers of declines in the mule deer population, CPW is presently killing, and plans to continue killing for the next three years, up to 25 black bears and 15 mountain lions per year from May to June in the Piceance.

“Off Target, Part 5: New potential motives for the killing of bears and mountain lions emerge,” May 11, 2017, Boulder Weekly

Off Target, Part 4: WildEarth Guardians file injunction to halt CPW’s predator management plans,” March 30, 2017, Boulder Weekly

Off Target, Part 3: CPW and the oil and gas industry can’t have it both ways: New evidence emerges from prior O&G environmental assessments that contradict CPW predator management plans that call for the slaughter of mountain lions and bears,” March 16, 2017, Boulder Weekly

Off Target, Part 2: Update: Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission predator management plans” February 23, 2017, Boulder Weekly

Off Target, Part 1: Are mountain lions and bears about to be killed for the sins of the oil and gas industry?” February 9, 2017, Boulder Weekly

On Dec. 14, 2016, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission unanimously approved two separate management plans for determining the degree to which predation by mountain lions and black bears affects mule deer populations in Colorado. To do so, the Piceance Basin and Upper Arkansas River Predator Management Plans both call for the killing of these predators. The plans are to be carried out beginning sometime this spring.

Understandably, these plans have sparked controversy and strong opposition. They are largely unpopular among prominent scientists working in the field of wildlife ecology, conservationists and private citizens. The conservation group WildEarth Guardians recently filed a lawsuit against CPW, the CPW Commission and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which oversees the CPW, challenging the plans in Denver County District Court.

While the management plans garnered support from outfitters, ranchers, farmers, hunting groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), those opposing the plans point to land-use development as the actual primary factor limiting mule deer populations. They argue the proliferation of residential growth and oil and gas development have cumulative impacts on the mule deer population far greater than predation, and claim that those industrial impacts have not been adequately taken into consideration.

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