WW is protecting wildlife by working to keep their habitat intact
The Wilderness Workshop’s motto is “protecting wild places and wildlife, for their sake – and ours.”
The White River National Forest is renowned for its native wildlife. But the habitat that the elk, bear and other wild creatures depend on for their survival is at risk. It’s being constricted, fragmented and degraded by roads and other facilities associated with a slow but steady increase in human activities. Oil and gas development, mining, logging and recreation (driven by a growing local population and exploding off-road vehicle use) all take their toll.
WW’s Forest Watchdog Program is working to prevent habitat loss and degradation on federal lands in our region. Our staff analyze proposed activities and policy directives for all public lands within our 2.9-million-acre service area. Where they threaten critical wildlife habitat or other ecologically important resources, we intervene to stop them or mitigate their impacts.
Some of these proposals may be relatively small in acreage, leading land managers to believe that their impacts are negligible. Unfortunately, the system isn’t set up to analyze the cumulative impacts of many separate activities on the land. A big part of our job is holding the agencies to their own regulations to analyze these cumulative impacts and prevent what would otherwise be death by a thousand cuts. (See Habitat Fragmentation: Size Matters.)
Logging proposals also sometimes require our intervention, although our relatively slow-growing forests don’t lend themselves to the big commercial timber sales seen in other parts of the country. In the past few years, logging projects on the White River National Forest have been initiated primarily for the purpose of improving wildlife habitat or forest health, with timber production as just a byproduct. The WRNF’s 50,000-acre Aspen-Sopris Habitat Improvement Project is the current vehicle for such treatments in the Roaring Fork Valley; we’re working with the Forest Service to ensure that the work is done in a way to cause minimal impacts.
Mining accounts for very little activity on public lands in our area nowadays, but can sometimes have implications for wildlife. In 2011 we weighed in on a request to reopen the White Banks Mine in the Avalanche Creek Valley, and successfully argued that the alabaster mine should observe seasonal closures to protect the valley’s bighorn sheep population. (The operator has since sued the Forest Service to try to reverse the seasonal closures requirement, so this fight isn’t over.)