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ROCKY MOUNTAINS SPECIES THAT NEED US TO GET TO 350 Photo credits
American pika (Ochotona princeps)
Range: Mountains in western United States and Canada
This tiny rabbit relative, adapted to cold climates, lives in boulder fields near mountain peaks. Pikas can die from overheating when exposed to temperatures as low as 78 degrees Fahrenheit for just a few hours. Besides directly killing pikas through overheating, climate change threatens the mammals by exposing them to summer heat stress, shrinking snowpack that insulates them from winter cold snaps, shortening their food-gathering period, changing the types of food available, and shrinking the alpine meadows where they feed. Rising temperatures have already been linked to the loss of more than one-third of documented pika populations in the Great Basin Mountains. Climate change is projected to virtually eliminate suitable habitat for the pika in this century if greenhouse gas pollution is not drastically reduced.

Thanks to the Center's 2007 petition and 2008 lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide whether the pika should be protected under the Endangered Species Act by February 2010.
American wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus)
Range: Small, fragmented, and semi-isolated populations in high-elevation habitat in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming; also possibly in Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota
The wolverine, the largest land-dwelling species in the mustelid family, is famous for its daring and tenacity — it’s been known to prey on animals as big as moose and to scare mountain lions and wolves off their kills. But the number of wolverines in the United States has dropped significantly in the past 100 years. Fewer than 500 wolverines left in the lower 48 states represent a distinct population. Wolverines depend on deep snow for denning to give birth and rear their young from February through early May. Climate change threatens the wolverine’s ability to raise young by reducing snowpack in the western mountains.

In September 2008, the Center and allies sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for deciding not to protect the wolverine and letting political considerations win out over scientific findings on the animal’s endangerment. The Service has agreed to re-examine the wolverine’s situation, with a new listing decision due in December 2010.
Bonneville cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki utah)
Range: Tributaries to Great Salt Lake, Utah
The Bonneville cutthroat trout is one of 14 recognized subspecies of cutthroat trout. The Bonneville descended from trout that originally lived in Lake Bonneville in the Pleistocene era. Over time, the lake became desiccated and transformed into the Great Salt Lake, dividing one large population of trout into many smaller subpopulations, which spread out in the still-viable mountain lakes and streams. But though it survived one drastic ecosystem change eons ago, the Bonneville cutthroat trout may not fair well in the face of climate change. Warmer water temperatures and high winter flooding will affect this trout’s ability to survive. One study found that climate-related changes threaten 73 percent of the habitat currently occupied by Bonneville cutthroat trout.
Boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas)
Range: North-central California, east through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, and north to southern Alaska
Boreal toads use holes dug by other animals for burrowing, and they can spend half of their lives hibernating. To find their way, like other toads, they use the stars and their sense of smell. Water pollution, habitat loss, and chytrid fungus have already resulted in the boreal toad disappearing from much its range. Because the toad only lives at high elevations — for example, above 8,500 feet in Colorado — global warming’s rising temperatures add yet another threat to the species. With rising temperatures, suitable habitat for the toad is pushed to even higher elevations, and habitat patches become more isolated, giving the toad fewer places to call home. In Yellowstone National Park, increased warming, reduced annual rainfall, and increasing drought conditions have already dried up pond habitat for the boreal toad and other amphibians.
Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus)
Range: Cold waters of northwestern North America
The bull trout is a type of char — a small-scaled trout with light spots — that was recognized as a distinct species in 1980. Some bull trout are anadromous (spending part of their lifecycle in ocean waters), while others prefer landlocked lakes or rivers. Individual bull trout vary a great deal in size, depending on their specific habitat, but all require cold, clear water with unobstructed migratory paths.

Rising water temperature and changes in stream flows can affect bull trout in each of their life stages. Even small increases in temperature can change migration timing, reduce growth, lower the supply of available oxygen in the water, reduce preferred prey species, and increase the susceptibility of fish to parasites and disease. High levels of winter flooding can scour eggs from their nests in streambeds and increase mortalities among over-wintering juveniles. About 90 percent of bull trout are projected to be lost due to warming.
Western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea)
Range: North, Central, and South America
Unlike most owls, the burrowing owl doesn’t live in trees, and it’s not nocturnal. It makes its nest underground — usually in abandoned rodent burrows — and is active both day and night. Although the burrowing owl was once widespread, habitat destruction has reduced the western burrowing owl’s breeding populations by more than 60 percent. Much of the burrowing owl’s western habitat will become drier, and drought conditions will increase with global warming, which will likely lead to reduced food supply for the owl.

The Center and allies petitioned in 2003 to protect the California population of the owl under the California Endangered Species Act, but the state refused to list the owl based largely on an inaccurate, inconsistent report by the California Department of Fish and Game. Our efforts to combat urban sprawl throughout the Southwest and California will help preserve burrowing owl habitat.
Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)
Range: Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin (contiguous U.S. distinct population segment)
Canada lynx are made for hunting in deep snow, with thick cushions of hair on the soles of their feet that act like built-in snowshoes. Appropriately enough, this adaptation helps them stalk their favorite prey, the snowshoe hare — unlike any other cat, the Canada lynx relies almost exclusively on the snowshoe hare for food. The lynx’s ability to hunt its favorite prey is intertwined with snow conditions. And deep snow plays another role in the lynx’s survival by excluding its main competitors for prey — coyotes and bobcats — and allowing the lynx to escape its own predator, the mountain lion. But warming winters can affect the texture, depth, and extent of snow cover. Climate change may also impact survival of the lynx’s primary habitat — boreal and alpine forests.

Thanks to a Center lawsuit, a judge ruled in 2008 that Minnesota was in violation of the Endangered Species Act by allowing traps that harm and kill Canada lynx.
Caribou (Rangifer tarandus)
Range: Canada, Alaska, Selkirk Mountains of northeastern Washington and northern Idaho
Caribou are the only deer (other than reindeer) whose females have antlers. Today, many caribou herds are in decline, and global warming is believed to be one cause. Migratory caribou seasonally move along traditional pathways to reach areas with the most plentiful food and the fewest predators and insects. As plant growth shifts earlier due to climate change, fewer caribou calves survive because their mothers have been unable to adjust the calving season to match changes in plant growth timing, and the animals aren’t getting enough to eat. As temperatures warm, parasites and predators may increase in the northern regions where caribou migrate to take refuge.

Thanks to a 2009 lawsuit by Center and allies, the Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to consider habitat protections for the woodland caribou, the only caribou remaining in the lower 48 states. A Center suit also spurred a court decision banning snowmobiles from 470 square miles of essential woodland caribou habitat.
Fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes)
Range: Texas’ Trans-Pecos region in summer
The fringed myotis is a species of vesper bat found in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. It occurs in a variety of habitats including desert-scrub, fir-pine, and oak and pinyon woodlands. It may roost in caves, mines, or buildings. Fringed bats are known to migrate, but little is known about their migration patterns.
Bats that inhabit arid regions, like the fringed myotis, are vulnerable to climate change because they need sufficient standing water for drinking. Standing water sources in arid areas are particularly important for nursing females, which need to drink much more than other bats to produce milk. One study concluded that predicted loss of water resources in the western United States due to climate change would lead to declines in regional bat populations, particularly by hurting bat reproduction.
Graham’s penstemon (Penstemon grahamii)
Range: Uinta Basin in Carbon, Duchesne, and Uinta counties, Utah; Rio Blanco County, Colorado
The lovely, pale lavender flowers of the Graham’s penstemon, with their magenta-striped throats and fiery orange inner parts, are quite remarkable in appearance. Also remarkable — and perilous — is the fact that this plant lives exclusively on oil shale in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado, where oil, gas, and oil shale development threatens its very existence. A member of the figwort family, the penstemon is a small plant — only about eight inches tall — but it has surprisingly large flowers for its size. While the penstemon is uniquely adapted to live in the Southwest’s harsh, dry climate, it requires a very specific type of shale substrate and can’t simply shift northward through different soil types as global warming increases.
Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
Range: Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, possibly southern Colorado, and western Canada
Traditional Blackfeet Indians believed the grizzly bear to be our closest animal relative. Yet today, grizzlies occupy less than 2 percent of their original range due to a mass kill-off of the bears both for profit and from fear. While the bears are mostly protected in the lower 48 states, they’re still hunted in Alaska and parts of Canada. Grizzlies now face the additional threat of global warming, which imperils one of the Yellowstone grizzly population’s key food sources: whitebark pine nuts. Studies show that bears that eat lots of whitebark pine nuts before hibernating survive better and have more cubs. However, rising temperatures are shrinking the range of whitebark pine and may make it more susceptible to mountain pine beetle attacks.

In 2007, the Yellowstone bear population was removed from the endangered species list. The Center filed suit with six other conservation organizations. In response to another case, in 2009 the court restored protections for Yellowstone grizzlies, citing in part the decline in their food sources due to global warming.
Gunnison sage grouse (Centrocercus minimus)
Range: Small, isolated populations centered around the Gunnison Basin in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah
Since the 19th century, only one new avian species has been described from the United States: the Gunnison sage grouse, in 2000. The grouse is a “YouTube” star for its elaborate courtship rituals. Each spring, males congregate and perform a strutting display, and females select the best performer to mate with. Only a few males do most of the breeding. But even though these grouse are declining severely due to habitat loss, they’ve so far been denied the protections of the Endangered Species Act. Because drought conditions result in decreased sage grouse nest success, increased drought severity would likely lower the Gunnison’s success in raising its young. Increasingly warmer and drier climate conditions are predicted to lower sagebrush habitat quality, enhance invasive plant invasions, and alter fire frequency.

The Center is working to reverse politically tainted decisions harming 59 species, including the Gunnison sage grouse, for which we went to court with allies in 2006.
Human being (Homo sapiens)
Range: Global
Homo sapiens, the Latin name for the modern human species, means “wise man.” Modern humans evolved in east Africa about 200,000 years ago. As of 2009, there are more than 6.8 billion of us on Earth. Humans have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem solving, but can they put these qualities to use when it comes to the man-made challenge posed by global warming?

Health and climate scientists believe that global warming is already responsible for some 150,000 deaths each year, and they fear that the number may well double by 2030. Global warming also contributes to some 5 million human illnesses every year. Some of the ways global warming negatively affects human health — especially in poorer nations — include: speeding the spread of infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever; creating conditions that lead to potentially fatal malnutrition and diarrhea; and increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves, floods, and other weather-related disasters. Studies have also found a direct link between rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and increased human mortality. Added air pollution caused by each degree Celsius increase in temperature caused by CO2 leads to about 1,000 additional deaths in the United States and many more cases of respiratory illness and asthma.
Kootenai River white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)
Range: Approximately 168 miles of the Kootenai River in Idaho and Montana and Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, Canada
This sturgeon‘s upstream migration to spawn has been virtually halted by the effects of Libby Dam, which has dramatically changed water flows — a regime that’s forcing fish to spawn over areas with a sandy bottom, where their eggs become encased in sand and drift downriver to die. Without better management, the Kootenai River white sturgeon could be extinct in 20 years. This fish has specific requirements for water temperature and substrate when laying eggs, so rising river temperatures and changes in peak water flows due to climate change will make reproduction even more difficult for this ancient species.

In 1999, five years after the sturgeon was designated as an endangered species, the Center filed suit to earn critical habitat for the fish. We won the suit, and in 2008, the Service protected an area with good sturgeon spawning habitat.
Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida)
Range: From the four-corner states southward into west Texas and Mexico’s Sierra Madres
The spotted owl has long served as a flagship species for environmentalists across the nation, and the Mexican spotted owl is the Southwest’s most famous old-growth resident. Unfortunately, by the late 1980s — at the height of logging in the national forests — biologists estimated that only 2,000 remained. The species’ numbers are still declining as it continues to lose habitat to logging, development, mining, and wildfire. This owl relies on cool, shady habitats that could be altered by climate change for both the owl and the small mammals they prey upon to survive. Spotted owls are believed to be heat intolerant, thus occupying dense forest to avoid high temperatures. Rising temperatures during nesting seasons could be particularly traumatic, as they could lead to nest failure and birds abandoning their territory. Owls that occupy the driest portions of the forest will be threatened first, which could result in higher population fragmentation and genetic isolation.

After multiple Center lawsuits, the Mexican spotted owl’s critical habitat was expanded to more than 8 million acres.
Montana fluvial arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus)
Range: Big Hole River of southwest Montana
The fluvial Arctic grayling, a glacial relict of a much larger Arctic population, has fallen victim to the war for water. River diversions and agriculture have so drastically shrunk its Montana population that it’s now teetering on the brink of extinction. It’s the last river-dwelling grayling species in the continental United States. Drought is a significant threat to the well-being of fluvial Arctic grayling populations, which appear to decline in periods of drought. Warmer temperatures and increased drought conditions due to climate change will pose further challenges for this cold-water species.

In 2002, the Center sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force a listing decision on this amazing fish. After listing was denied, the Center filed another lawsuit, and in 2009, the Service agreed to reconsider the grayling for protection.
Northern Rocky Moutains gray wolf (Canis lupus irremotus)
Range: northern Rocky Mountains of the United States
Conflicts with the livestock industry led to the gray wolf being extirpated from the West by 1945. Today, the wolf has a new image as a social creature with an indispensible role in ecosystems — and Endangered Species Act protection has given it a new chance to thrive. But, global warming brings new threats.
Northern Rockies wolves are threatened by the loss of the harsh winters that make their prey more vulnerable in the winter and spring – which may also bring them into greater conflict with the livestock industry.

In 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the wolves federal protection. Wolves began falling victim to bullets — so a coalition of groups, including the Center, filed suit. Ultimately, a judge agreed that the wolves’ delisting was likely unlawful but hasn’t halted wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.
Piping plover (Charadrius melodus)
Range: Atlantic Coast of United States and Canada, Great Lakes
Thanks to their sand-colored plumage and stop-and-go dashes across dunes, piping plovers are usually heard before they’re seen. But their camouflage means they’re vulnerable to off-road vehicles and other threats, which have made them among the rarest shorebirds in North America. Off-road vehicles, which ruin habitat, crush nests and eggs, and directly kill birds. Climate change poses a growing threat to the piping plover. Many plovers nest on the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and all plovers winter along the beaches and dunes of the southern Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coastlines. Sea-level rise and storm intensification threaten to inundate the piping plover’s coastal breeding and foraging habitat; degrade the quality of habitat for foraging, nesting, and cover; and alter the composition and availability of prey species.

To save piping plovers, the Center has been working hard to keep off-road vehicles out of precious habitat through our Off-road Vehicles campaign. We also filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for inadequately protecting piping plover habitat.
Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei)
Range: Wyoming and Colorado
Endemic to Colorado and Wyoming, the tiny Preble’s meadow jumping mouse escapes predators and threats with an incredible four-foot jump. Unfortunately, evading climate change will prove much more difficult. The jumping mouse hibernates in winter, using stored fat to sustain its energy needs. Warmer winter temperatures can arouse hibernating mice from their slumber, which can significantly deplete their energy reserves. Researchers have found that females survive better during long, cold winters, likely because colder winters lead to less energy-burning arousals. In addition, decreased snowpack, earlier spring runoff, and lower summer flows may make their riparian habitat less suitable.

The Preble’s has jumped on and off the endangered species list several times within the past decade, and the Center is currently involved in litigation to reinstate full federal protection for this prairie denizen.
Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis)
Range: Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico
Once plentiful throughout southern Colorado and New Mexico, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout now occupies less than 10 percent of its previous range. While the fish has been designated a threatened species thanks to Center litigation, federal authorities have yet to implement any meaningful conservation measures, citing “more pressing work.” However, with climate change rapidly bearing down, the time to act is now. Rio Grande cutthroat trout live in clean, cold mountain streams and rivers and require low summer water temperatures and clean gravel for spawning. Rising water temperatures caused by global warming threaten to make rivers and streams less habitable for the trout.

The Center first petitioned to list the Rio Grande cutthroat trout under the Endangered Species Act in 1998. After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to protect the trout, we took the agency to court and the Service announced eventually found that the trout’s situation warrants protection — unfortunately, federal protection still hasn’t been granted.
Snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus)
Range: Arctic regions of both the old and new worlds
The snowy owl was first classified as a species in 1758. This large, white-feathered tundra dweller relies primarily on lemmings for food, but will take advantage of larger prey, including rabbits and foxes. It can eat more than 1,600 lemmings per year. The snowy owl is an extremely important component of the food web in the tundra ecosystem. Already, climate change may be threatening the snowy owl's primary prey — the lemming. In Norway, changes in temperature and humidity affecting snowpack may have interrupted the regular boom-and-bust cycle of lemming populations, making this food source less predictable for the owls. In addition, researchers have recently discovered that snowy owls may use Arctic sea-ice habitat extensively in winter for hunting sea ducks. The melting of the sea ice may impact the owl’s ability to hunt in winter.
Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
Range: Pacific Ocean and coastal streams
Sockeye salmon, also known as “red” or “blueback” salmon, live a dual existence between freshwater streams and the ocean. Sockeye salmon hatch in freshwater streams where they may live for up to four years before migrating to sea as silvery smolt weighing only a few ounces. They grow quickly in the sea, usually reaching four to eight pounds after one to four years. Mature sockeye salmon travel thousands of miles from ocean feeding areas to spawn in the same freshwater system they were born in. Little is known about how they navigate.

Climate change affects sockeye salmon in several important ways. As rivers get warmer, the survival rate of cold-water salmon migrating upstream to spawn is expected to plummet. Flooding events in the streams where sockeye spawn could wash eggs from the gravel beds where they’re laid. A recent study found that prolonged ocean warming could greatly restrict the ocean foraging areas of sockeye salmon.
Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus)
Range: Breeds in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah; winters from southern Mexico to northern South America
The southwestern willow flycatcher enjoys the distinction of being one of the few songbirds born with an innate, not learned, repertoire of songs. Unfortunately, despite more than a decade of federal protection, this species is still direly imperiled by habitat destruction and global warming. The flycatcher’s breeding habitat is intimately linked with water. It nests in dense riparian habitats along rivers, streams, or other wetlands where the water table is high enough to support riparian vegetation. Thus, decreases in precipitation that threaten riparian habitats also threaten this species.

The flycatcher was one of the first species the Center championed. After a Center petition and years of litigation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the flycatcher endangered in 1995. After the flycatcher’s critical habitat was slashed due to a politically motivated decision, in 2008 we sued the Bush administration to force it to restore the habitat protections the flycatcher needs. In 2009, we went to court again over a plan allowing an imported beetle to hurt flycatcher habitat.
Spalding’s catchfly (Silene spaldingii)
Range: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana
A leafy, perennial flower in the carnation family, Spalding's catchfly grows on low- to mid-elevation grasslands of the Palouse Prairie and adjacent areas in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. There are currently 99 known populations, with two-thirds of these composed of fewer than 100 individuals each. Agricultural and urban development, off-road vehicle use and competition from nonnative plants have all contributed to its decline. Climate change exacerbates conditions for the spread of invasive plants and increases the intensity and frequency of fire, all major threats to the Spalding’s catchfly.

In 2001, the Center won a threatened listing for the Spalding’s catchfly, and we’ve since been working to reduce pesticide impacts on this sensitive plant.
White-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura)
Range: Alpine regions from Alaska to New Mexico
The white-tailed ptarmigan is the smallest bird in the grouse family and the only bird in the alpine zone to remain there during winter instead of migrating. It has feathers around its nostrils, so the air it inhales is warmed before reaching its body. In winter, this bird is pure white except for a black beak and eyes, and its white feathers help camouflage it. In summer, it has a mottled and barred brown head, breast, and back with white wings, belly, and tail. Because white-tailed ptarmigan occupy patchy high-elevation alpine tundra habitats, rising temperatures may compress and fragment their alpine habitat as forested habitats move upward in elevation. Scientists have found that the growth of ptarmigan populations in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado has decreased as winter minimum temperatures have increased, and that future warming is likely to accelerate declines in ptarmigan abundance.
Yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)
Range: Southern Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas; western yellow-billed cuckoo found west of mountain ranges forming eastern edge of the Rio Grande watershed
The yellow-billed cuckoo is a rare bird that has been almost entirely eradicated west of the Continental Divide. With as few as 40 breeding pairs remaining in California, the species is dangerously close to extinction. Climate change could well be the catalyst that pushes the yellow-billed cuckoo into oblivion. Western yellow-billed cuckoos require large patches (ideally 25 to 100 acres) of streamside willows and cottonwoods. Decreases in precipitation that threaten riparian habitats also threaten this species.

In 1998, the Center filed a scientific petition to earn endangered species protection for the cuckoo, which helped fund research into the genetic characteristics of the species — ultimately leading to a Fish and Wildlife Service determination that western cuckoos should be treated as a “distinct population segment.” In 2000, the Center and allies filed a suit to force a listing decision, and the next year the Service determined the cuckoo’s listing was “warranted but precluded” — meaning the bird’s federal protection would be put off.