If you want a clear indication of just how healthy, or unhealthy, the Cache la Poudre River on Colorado’s northern Front Range is these days, look no further than the Arapahoe snowfly, aka Capnia Arapahoe.
Known to frequent just two small tributaries of the Poudre – Young Gulch and Elkhorn Creek – the tiny aquatic insect is in need of Endangered Species Act protection, prompting scientists and conservation groups this week to file a petition requesting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend that protection to the snowfly.
The grassroots Save The Poudre organization and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, an international scientific nonprofit, are among the petitioners. They claim the rare snowfly is an indicator species because its existence speaks to the clean, clear, cold status of the water and therefore the viability of other species.
“Our organization’s mission is to protect and restore the Poudre River,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre, “and that extends to the species and ecosystem in and around it. We have a moral, environmental and economic obligation to protect the Arapahoe snowfly. Save The Poudre is proud to support this petition.”
The groups argue the snowfly is “on the brink of extinction” because of timber projects, insecticides, livestock grazing, sediment from nearby roads and trails, recreation activity and effluent from residential septic systems.