A study released this week by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program finds native plants and wildlife could be negatively affected if mining company Rocky Mountain Resources’ expansion proposal is approved.
The mining company is looking to expand its operations at the Mid-Continent Quarry by 5,000% just outside of Glenwood Springs.
The study, conducted in July 2018 and June 2019, found the current land that Rocky Mountain Resources is looking to mine is home to more than 100 native plant species and provides winter habitat for elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep.
The potential expansion site is also home to mountain lions and black bears year-round, as well as a breeding habitat for wildlife classified as "Species of Concern" by the state.
The current mining site as well as the proposed expansion area sits on south-facing slopes, which provide winter habitat for many wildlife species. Those slopes are connected to the Flattops, where many animals spend summers. That connection could be cut off if the mining company expands its operations, leaving elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep without a migration path, the study says.
Colorado Natural Heritage Program also states in the study the high-quality natural habitats and wildlife at the site provide important ecosystem functions “essential to the viability of native wildlife populations.”
Researchers found a wide-variety of plants such as conifer forests, mountain shrublands and aspen woodlands, known as habitat mosaics. According to the study, when all of those habitats work together, it supports a rich diversity of wildlife.
“Habitat mosaics provide food and cover resources to a greater richness of native wildlife and for greater extent of time during the year and throughout a species’ life cycle,” the study states. If Rocky Mountain Resources’ expansion proposal was approved, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program said all that wildlife could be at risk.
The study was commissioned by the City of Glenwood Springs.