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Happy 100th Birthday to Rocky Mountain National Park!

Kyle Sullivan, employee at the BLM Colorado’s Royal Gorge Field Office, snapped these great wildlife photos in Rocky Mountain National Park. Visitors can access BLM public lands from the park via Trail Ridge Road in the summer. 

Congratulations, neighbor.  100 looks great on you!

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Looking for a spooky hike? Walk among the dead at Oil Well Flats in Colorado. The north and east sections were burned years ago in the Cooper Mountain Fire. The resulting landscape is otherworldly, with sandstone spires that tower above the charred remains of piñons and junipers.  It’s a spectacular landscape, especially at dusk. 

By Kyle Sullivan, BLM

BLM Colorado Intern Conducting Research on Public Lands Wins Big at Science Fair

Tayler Rocha, a high school intern for the Bureau of Land Management-Colorado San Luis Valley (SLV) Field Office, recently presented her research findings during the SLV’s monthly staff meeting. As her research shows, Rocha is quickly becoming a youth to watch for great success! For the second year in a row, she received numerous awards and honors for her science fair project, which was designed to answer management questions targeting wildlife, riparian and wetlands issues on BLM-managed land in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

Tayler Rocha collects macro-invertebrates at San Luis Lakes as a part of her science fair project about endangered southwestern willow flycatcher habitat.

This year, Rocha’s project recommendeds strategies for managing endangered southwestern willow flycatcher habitat based on results from her research. She compared habitat characteristics on burned versus unburned lands as well as on occupied versus unoccupied habitat within the BLM’s Simpson/ McIntire property. The property was recently designated as critical habitat for the SWF, and a 900-acre wildfire in Spring 2013 provided the perfect opportunity for her study. Rocha received mentorship from Loree Harvey, an SLV seasonal employee, along with Monte Vista School District science teacher and other BLM employees.

Tayler takes water samples as part of her research.

Rocha’s project has not only taken her to Colorado’s statewide Science and Engineering Fair, but will also be instrumental in the future management strategy for the critical habitat. She has been a seasonal employee or volunteer for the wildlife program for the San Luis Valley Field Office for four years, and this is her second science fair project focused on assisting the BLM with management strategies for this important habitat.

Tayler Rocha proudly stands by her science fair project that analyzed critical habitat for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher at the 2013 Regional Science Fair.

This year, Rocha received top honors at regional and state science fairs as well as the International Science and Engineering Fair. Over the past four years, she has consistently placed in the top three spots at the regional and state science fairs and even received a full-ride scholarship to Drexel University based on her research for the 2013 International Science and Engineering Fair.

Last November, Rocha applied to the highest-level research competition for non-college students, the Intel Science Talent Search. The competition is only open to high school seniors, and approximately 2,000 students nationwide enter each year. Students compete for top prizes, to include a week in Washinton D.C. to tour the nation’s capital and meet the President. Rocha was selected as one of 300 semifinalists. No student from the San Luis Valley has ever made the first cut, and only a handful of Colorado students in the last decade have made it this far. The BLM San Luis Valley Field Office proudly celebrates her success!

-Jill Lucero, Wetlands Biologist in BLM SLV; Alyssa Radcliff, Wildlife Biologist, BLM SLV; Kyle Sullivan, Public Affairs Specialist, Front Range District; and Courtney Whiteman, Public Affairs Specialist, Colorado State Office

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Colorado Sage-Grouse are Released into the Wild after Successful Study 

I recently had the rare opportunity to watch Colorado Parks and Wildlife release three female Gunnison Sage-grouse on Poncha Pass in northern San Luis Valley, Colorado. Grouse are typically captured at night, transported to the release site, and then released very early the next morning. But this release was different…

The three hens were five years old (grouse typically live for two to five years in the wild). They were taken from the nest as eggs and hatched in captivity as part of a captive breeding program at the USDA National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. The program studied how to raise grouse in captivity and whether chicks raised in captivity could be released successfully into the wild. The study had run its course and was not renewed due to the success of habitat restoration efforts and stable sage-grouse populations in the Gunnison Basin, so it was time for the grouse to be released. 

Before releasing the grouse, Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff collected feather samples and attached radio transmitters to the grouse. The radio transmitters are among many tools that CPW and partners, including the BLM, use to monitor the Poncha Pass population.   

-Kyle Sullivan

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Explore the night sky on your public lands.

Lands managed by the BLM-Royal Gorge Field Office are ideal for star gazing. Just outside of Cañon City, the Garden Park Valley (Oil Well Flats, Dinosaur Flats, Seep Springs and Shelf Road Climbing Area) all offer dark skies that are perfect for star gazing. Even without any special equipment, the Milky Way is visible, and you can see the occasion shooting star, satellites and planes. 

These photos were taken at Oil Well Flats several weeks ago. It was an ideal night, there were no clouds in the sky, and the moon had already set for the night. In these photos, the lights from Cañon City lit up the buttes of the Garden Park Fossil Area,.

Photos by Kyle Sullivan, BLM Colorado Front Range District