Federal judge’s ruling ends Colorado’s plan to kill hundreds of mountain lions in Upper Arkansas River Basin
Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s nine-year project called for killing half the mountain lion population to study impacts on dwindling mule deer herds between Leadville and Salida
A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that federal dollars cannot be used to fund a Colorado Parks and Wildlife plan to kill hundreds of mountain lions in the Upper Arkansas River Valley as part of a study of the impact of predators on declining mule deer populations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needed to conduct its own environmental analysis of Colorado’s predator management plan before funding long-term projects that kill bears and cougars, Judge Marcia Krieger ruled last week. She ruled the federal agency should have conducted its own environmental review — not relied on another agency’s study — when it helped pay for the killing of as many as 230 mountain lions between Leadville and Salida as part of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife plan to bolster mule deer herds.
“At least for right now, there is no federal funding for a $4 million project and without the funding, they will not be able to move forward in the same capacity,” said Andrea Zaccardi, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2018 over its support for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s plan.
The federal court ruling last week cuts funding for a nine-year project that would remove half of the mountain lions in the Upper Arkansas River Basin. An application for federal funding for the mountain lion reduction in the basin shows costs ranging from $358,000 to $435,000 a year and the state asked the federal government to pay roughly 75% of that cost. A spokeswoman with Fish and Wildlife said the service is aware of the court’s decision “and will be considering the next steps.”
In 2016, Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on an environmental assessment of Colorado’s predator-management policy. The study concluded in 2017 that the state’s management plan did not require an overhaul or more intensive environmental review. That same year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife proposed a study that would weigh the role of predators on declining mule-deer populations in the Piceance Basin on the Western Slope and the Upper Arkansas River Valley between Leadville and Salida.
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