Craig briefs: Moffat County residents respond to grouse plan

The Bureau of Land Management released its Northwest Colorado greater sage grouse draft environmental impact statement Friday, analyzing new conservation measures to be implemented into plans for the five BLM field offices that make up the Northwest District.

Greater sage grouse already have disappeared from half of their former range and in 2010 became candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Without substantive protections, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service likely will be forced to act and give the greater sage grouse the full protection of the Endangered Species Act in 2015.

The relatively large, undisturbed expanses of sagebrush in Moffat County provide habitat to roughly two-thirds of Colorado’s greater sage grouse population.

Once widespread throughout the West, sage grouse numbers have declined dramatically in the past few decades. Oil and gas drilling, pipelines, power lines, roads, invasive weeds and ex-urban sprawl all are combining to drive the sage grouse toward extinction, according to the press release.

More than 350 other species that also depend on sagebrush habitat, including mule deer, pronghorn, ferruginous hawks, pygmy rabbits and various songbirds, benefit from greater sage grouse protection.

“The greater sage grouse is the proverbial canary in the coal mine telling us that our sagebrush ecosystem has been badly damaged,” Rene Littlehawk-Calicurra, owner of Calicurra Outfitters, said in the press release. “Protecting sage grouse habitat will not only stave off the bird’s extinction, it will help conserve mule deer and other big game.”

Wildlife-related activities are a major economic driver for rural Colorado with hunting, fishing and wildlife watching generating more than $3 billion per year in Colorado alone.

“The sagebrush sea isn’t just important for biodiversity, it’s important for our local communities,” said Allan Reishus, a Craig physician and avid sportsmen. “Thousands of sportsmen come to Moffat County every year, contributing roughly $35 million to our local economy. The sagebrush ecosystem provides crucial winter habitat to mule deer, elk and pronghorn in addition to sage grouse. That is why BLM must get this plan right.”

Repaving on Colo. 13 to commence next week

On Monday and Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Transportation will repave Colorado Highway 13, also known as Yampa Avenue, in Craig. The project will span from the westbound Colo. 13/U.S. Highway 40 intersection, also known as East Victory Way, north for approximately one block to the intersection of Yampa Avenue and East Sixth Street.

“This project will create a smoother surface on the highway, and will eliminate the rutted section of highway that holds water and ice in the winter,” CDOT’s Todd Weber said. “Not only will motorists experience a smoother drive, but the work will also help prevent the roadway from deteriorating.”

Work will take place both days between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. and will require the complete closure of the highway. Motorists will not be allowed into the closure zone for travel or for parking and are urged to plan alternate routes. During the work, all travelers are encouraged to drive slow for the cone zone.

To receive real-time updates about road conditions in your area, visit www.coloradodot.info and click on the green cellphone icon in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Updates also are available via Twitter @coloradodot and on CDOT’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/coloradodot.

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