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© Marty Urbanovsky

Southern Rockies

What Defenders is Doing to Help

Defenders has maintained a presence in the Southern Rockies since 2005 when we first opened an office in Denver, Colorado. 

Endangered Species Protection

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) prevents the extinction of species and requires them to be recovered. We advocate for ESA protection when necessary to protect rare and declining species. We also assist agencies in developing recovery plans and putting them into action to help recover species to the point where they no longer need this level of protection.

  • Canada lynx were officially protected under the ESA in 2000 in response to Defenders’ listing petition and litigation. Defenders pressed for improved critical habitat protection in 2006 and 2009. In 2010, Defenders and partners joined with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to defend the 2009 critical habitat designation from attack by snowmobile groups in Washington and Wyoming.
  • Wolverines are an incredibly rare forest carnivore. Historic trapping caused their complete eradication in the Southern Rockies (although at least one wolverine has been seen in Colorado recently). Defenders has been fighting for nearly two decades to federally protect the snow-loving, mountain-living wolverine, and promote their reintroduction to unoccupied areas of their historic range. In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list wolverines as a “threatened” species in the contiguous United States. But in a startling reversal one year later, the agency determined the species did not warrant listing and removed it from further consideration. Defenders is challenging this clearly flawed decision in court.
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo. Yellow-billed cuckoos are highly dependent on rare streamside habitats in the West. Defenders supported listing the yellow-billed cuckoo as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, as well as designating critical habitat for the species in the Southern Rockies and elsewhere. 

Forests for Wildlife Initiative 

National forests make up a large portion of the lands within the Southern Rockies and provide habitat strongholds for many listed and imperiled species, including lynx and native trout. Defenders’ Forests for Wildlife Initiative works to ensure that national forest lands are managed to conserve, connect and recover imperiled species and their habitats. To accomplish this, Defenders is reviewing and providing input on national forest land use and management plans in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming to make sure that they go far enough in protecting, recovering and monitoring the status of at-risk wildlife.