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Southeastern Colorado Focus Area


Southeastern Colorado Focus Area location map



Mixed grass prairie photoIntroduction and
General Description

The Southeastern Colorado Focus Area incorporates three critical and interrelated habitat types: playa lakes, riparian/floodplain, and native prairie. Southeastern Colorado is characterized by cultivated tableland; short, mixed, and sand sage prairie; canyonlands; and the Arkansas River Valley. The western part of the Focus Area is montane. The Comanche National Grasslands and the Army’s Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site are the principle publicly owned tracts in the Focus Area. The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Ducks Unlimited also have ongoing habitat protection efforts within this area. Most of this Focus Area is within the Playa Lakes Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.


Habitats of Special Concern

In Southeastern Colorado, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and our funding partners (Colorado Division of Wildlife, Natural Resources Conservation Service, North American Wetland Conservation Act, The Nature Conservancy, and Ducks Unlimited) are focusing on playa restoration/management, floodplain wetlands, riparian restorations, and native prairie restorations. Playa and wetland/riparian projects will benefit migratory birds, both water birds and neotropical migrants, as well as resident wildlife.

lesser prairie chicken hen photo
Lesser prairie chicken hen.
Native prairie projects are currently primarily directed at restoring sand sage and mixed grass prairie for lesser prairie chicken habitats. Projects to improve habitat for the mountain plover and other shortgrass dependent species are being developed.
male lesser prairie chicken photo
Male lesser prairie chicken

Threats and Conservation Strategies

Intensive agriculture is the primary source of habitat loss in this Focus Area. However, agricultural producers in this part of Colorado are also the source of virtually all Partners for Fish and Wildlife projects. Habitat loss from non-agricultural development is currently a significant issue only in the western mountain portion of the Focus Area due to subdivision of large ranches.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and our other partners, designs and implements habitat improvement projects with private landowner cooperators. Fencing, grazing management, alternative livestock water supply, and revegetation are the primary tools used for lesser prairie chicken habitat restoration. Our projects are designed to improve nesting and brood rearing habitat by increasing residual cover and insect producing forbs.

nesting piping plover with 4 eggs photoA recent drought provided an opportunity for the Partners Program to work with a private landowner and provide nesting habitat for two federally listed species, the piping plover and the least tern. The drought produced the lowest water levels in 50 years at a privately owned lake in southeastern Colorado providing an opportunity to create a nesting island for the two species. Both the piping plover and least tern have attempted to nest on the shoreline of the lake in recent years but mammalian predators quickly found and destroyed the nests. In an attempt to eliminate mammalian predation, Partners biologists worked with the landowner and constructed a 2.7-acre island designed specifically to provide the gradual sloping shorelines preferred by the birds as nesting habitat. The landowner and Partners staff are eagerly anticipating use of the newly created nesting habitat this summer.

Wetland projects entail contour terraces, water concentration pit backfill in playa basins, and restoration of seasonal/temporary wetland types through use of irrigation water. Riparian restoration involves fencing (usually electric) to exclude or restrict livestock use of steam corridors.

Most projects are a combination of wetland and upland restoration activities. The average cost is $45/acre.

playa wetland restoration in Kit County photo
Playa wetland restoration in Kit Carson County.
Plains leopard frog from the same wetland photo
Plains leopard frog from the same wetland.

Partners

In working with cooperating landowners, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in the Southeastern Colorado Focus Area has developed funding and planning relationships with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ducks Unlimited, Western Governors’ Association, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, local Soil Conservation Districts, and local Pheasants Forever chapters.


Accomplishments

Since 1996, the Partners Program in southeastern Colorado has completed 160 landowner agreements covering 1,757 wetland acres, 27,883 upland acres, and 30 riparian miles.


Future Needs

  • Increase in the number of projects targeted toward short and mixed grass prairie species. There are 100,000 acres of prairies that could be restored in this Focus Area.
  • There are 10,000 acres of restorable wetlands in this Focus Area.

wetland creation in Baca County

For more information, contact:

Katy Fitzgerald
Partners for Fish and Wildlife
El Paso Co USDA Service Center.
5610 Industrial Place
Colorado Springs, CO 80916
katy_fitzgerald@fws.gov

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