Western yellow-billed cuckoo
Steamboat Springs Seven endangered or threatened species are living in the streams and woods of Routt County, and environmentalists are taking a hard look at how they can help the animals survive.
Of the animals, five are fish. The bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and razorback sucker are all endangered, while the greenback cutthroat trout is threatened, a status of lesser concern. The Canada lynx also is threatened, and the Western yellow-billed cuckoo is listed on the state, but not federal, watch list.
Al Pfister, the western Colorado supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency that oversees endangered species, said the listed animals in Routt County can be hard to track, specifically because the lynx numbers are so few, and the fish populations are difficult to monitor.
With Endangered Species Day on Friday, biologists across the county are looking again at the Endangered Species Act and how it has affected species nationwide.
To help the listed species return to a sustainable status, biologists remove nonnative species such as the northern pike from the rivers, and help protect the environments of the animals. In the Yampa River, that means water quality testing and keeping watch on the water levels.
“All the efforts to manage the water are done in an effort to meet the water needs and water rights of the various people up there,” Pfister said. “That’s where the balancing act comes in between meeting what the fish need and what society needs.”
Locally, the Colorado Division of Wildlife also is helping protect animals that are not on the federal lists. Spokesman Randy Hampton said the goal is to never let a species become endangered enough that it would require federal oversight, and if it does, support it enough so that oversight returns to the state level.
The greater sage grouse is another bird that Hampton said has caught the attention of biologists, and state and local protections have given the bird additional support.
Local management plans have included ranchers, industry representatives, business groups and local governments, Hampton said, all dedicated to making sure the sage grouse doesn’t become endangered.
Hampton and Pfister pointed to the bald eagle as an example of what conservation and management can do to help a species. While bald and golden eagles still are protected under a specific national act, they
are prevalent enough that they were removed from the endangered species list in 2007.
Pfister said that’s the goal for all animals — determine what is threatening them and help them to survive in their natural habitat.
Several other species that are federally threatened, including the southwestern willow flycatcher, also are seen in Routt County but are fairly common in this area.
For more information about endangered species, visit www.fws.gov/endangered.