On Oct. 1, Black Canyon Audubon Society members hosted the fall quarterly meeting of the Audubon Colorado Council. The ACC coordinates efforts of the state's 11 Colorado Audubon chapters to meet the National Audubon Society mission of conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.
In addition to the local chapter, delegates from the Audubon Society of Greater Denver and Boulder County, Arkansas Valley, Fort Collins, Aiken (Colorado Springs) and Weminuche chapters attended the meeting.
While in the North Fork area, chapter delegates took a short birding trip to Bethlehem Cemetery and toured the office of High Country News. At HCN they shared concerns and story ideas with staff. Among those issues is a proposal by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife to kill carnivores including mountain lions and black bears in designated areas of the state to study their role in mule deer population declines.
The ACC works to keep issues of importance to birders in front of state lawmakers, said BCAS board member Jane McGarry, who hosted the meeting at her home in Paonia. Quarterly meetings allow chapters across the state to exchange information on current issues.
"The council is an opportunity for chapters to work together," said Ron Harden, Fort Collins chapter member and ACC public policy committee chair. "Audubon Colorado Council wants to know how it can help support other chapters."
The Arkansas Valley chapter shared information on the problems caused by use of lead ammunition in hunting, which can kill raptors that feed on carcasses containing lead. The chapter recently received a grant for vouchers that can be exchanged for copper bullets. Chapter members attend hunter education courses to provide hunters information on the dangers of lead ammo and provide them with the copper ammo.
BCAS vice president Chris Lazo and conservation committee chair Bill Day updated chapters on ongoing conservation efforts for the Gunnison sage grouse, currently listed as "threatened" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lazo said that between 80-90 percent of the grouse populations are found in the Gunnison area and one of six satellite populations being monitored in the state is located near Crawford. Since the USFWS has identified habitat loss as a primary cause of past population declines, the Crawford working group, including landowners, interested citizens and governmental and nongovernmental organizations, is primarily focused on creation of conservation easements and habitat restoration.
Lazo also updated the ACC on an ongoing disagreement that has reached the high courts over whether the Gunnison sage grouse should be listed by the USFWS under the Endangered Species Act as "endangered" or "threatened."
ACC delegates voted to submit comments on the Uncompahgre Field Office area of the Bureau of Land Management's the draft Resource Management Plan. Nov. 1 is the deadline for public comment on the draft. Day gave a brief description of the options being considered by the BLM and urged delegates to submit comments that focus on wildlife habitat concerns in areas of special designation including Lands with Wilderness Characteristics, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and Special Recreation Management Areas.
The Black Canyon Audubon Society chapter covers nearly 8,300 square miles in Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, San Miguel and Ouray counties. The chapter participates in the annual bird banding program at Ridgway State Park, which each year exposes hundreds of fifth grade students to birds and bird migration and the natural world, said McGarry.
They also participate in numerous birding field trips and bird counts, the annual Eckert Crane Days and the annual NAS Christmas Bird Count. Non-members are welcome. Annual membership is $10 annually and includes the Canyon Wrenderings newsletter ($15 per year to receive newsletter by mail). All dues remain with the local chapter.
The next field trip is to Blue Mesa Reservoir on Nov. 26 to count Barrow's goldeneyes. Visit blackcanyonaudubon.org for more information.