Alpine tundra and high peaks in the Snowy Range in the Medicine Bow National Forest (40 miles west of Laramie, WY). All the land is in Federal ownership. Unlike most habitats at this elevation, access is relatively easy as a state highway crosses the tundra.

Ornithological Summary

The bird species of interest is the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. The species is on the Audubon WatchList because of its decreasing population and limited global range. In addition, few systematic studies have been done on the species because of the inaccessibility of its high elevation habitat.
The species is primarily found within the state of Colorado, but the range extends into central New Mexico and southern Wyoming. The Medicine Bow National Forest is the only location in Wyoming where Brown-capped Rosy-Finches occur. The species is considered a "species of local concern" on the Forest occur. Another "species of local concern," the Medicine Bow pika (a subspecies) also occurs on the site. The loss of pikas from 25% of historic sites in the Great Basin in the last 50 years suggests change in this habitat, whether related to climate change or human disturbance. In addition, the site formerly supported a population of White-tailed Ptarmigan that was apparently extirpated by the early 1970's. Also, due to the delicate habitat type of this area (primarily high alpine tundra), the site and bird species could be bio-indicators of the health of the ecosystem. For example, due to persistent and heavy snows, the area could reveal an accumulation of toxins (within the snow drifts) and possible affects of climate change through decreasing snow line and increasing treeline. These affects could have significant repercussions to avian species.

Conservation Issues

The area receives high levels of recreations use in the summer and winter. The effects disturbance in nesting season and of snow compaction (altering spring habitat) on rosyfinches are poorly understood.

Ownership

All the land is in Federal ownership

Habitat

The primary habitat type within this IBA is alpine tundra and high peaks in the Snowy Range in the Medicine Bow National Forest. The secondary habitat type are cliff/rock and high elevation riparian.

Land Use

The area is totally managed by the U.S. Forest Service out of the Laramie regional office. The area receives high levels of recreation use in the summer and winter (the latter mostly snowmobiling). The area is managed primarily for non-motorized recreation in the summer and for motorized use (off-trail snowmobiles) in the winter. The area includes sheep grazing allotments which have been vacant since 1997. The Forest Service recently received an application to pasture domestic sheep in the area.

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