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 Armys 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
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.
|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
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.
A 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
Most projects are a combination of
wetland and upland restoration activities. The average cost is $45/acre.
Playa wetland restoration in Kit Carson County.
Plains leopard frog from the same wetland.
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.
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.
- 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.
For more information,
Partners for Fish and Wildlife
El Paso Co USDA Service Center.
5610 Industrial Place
Colorado Springs, CO 80916