(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
This time of year the color comes out in Colorado, and it’s not only the golden aspen in the high country or rusty scrub-oak on south-facing slopes. Blaze orange is also in full display in western Colorado as communities put out banners, and the hunters don’t disappoint—for the arrival of the fall hunting season.
The Piceance Basin has been called, at various times, Colorado’s ‘mule deer factory’ and a ‘national sacrifice area.’ One is an apt description of biological fact—the Piceance is home to the largest migratory deer herd in North America and the other an unfortunate description of what too many think: that developing the area’s abundant fossil fuel deposits ought to take precedent over everything else. Including the wildlife.
This isn’t meant to be a soapbox: a lot of lands are already leased or controlled by energy companies in Northwest Colorado, more drilling is coming. But unlike where the shale is getting drilled and fracked on the East Slope, out in Weld County for instance, gas in the Piceance isn’t worth as much for a variety of reasons and companies are mostly sitting on their large reserves—for now.
This gives Colorado’s wildlife a bit of a time out, and we shouldn’t waste it. Because it’s not just the mule deer, or the elk, it’s all the wildlife that relies on humans not being reckless with their habitat just to suit our purposes. That includes the Greater Sage Grouse. And that’s a reason for everyone to come to the table and figure things out quick.
Which gets back to the hunting season. Hunters need animals, and animals need habitat. It’s as simple as that, and that’s why hunters have long been counted among America’s original conservationists. The Sage Grouse is in the news lately because its habitat needs are not being met and its headed for a listing under the Endangered Species Act. Lots of different folks would like to avoid that—including many conservation groups if the bird’s habitat can be protected and enhanced so the grouse’s decline can be reversed.
But the State of Colorado needs to act fast to put real and strong protection in place that protect the bird’s habitat. That means doing more to protect habitat in the Piceance Basin, which is also where the Greater Sage Grouse occurs in Colorado. That’s good for all the animals. And hunters.