Conservation easements in Southwest Colorado protect wildlife habitat
DURANGO, Colo. – A long-term effort in southwestern Colorado has led to the protection of large swaths of prime wildlife habitat in what is known locally as the Glade. The area is located in central Dolores County, north and east of the town of Dolores.
Over the last 10 years, about 17,000 acres have been protected through conservation easements that private landowners have placed on their properties. The latest addition is a 960-acre easement that was completed in May. The conservation easement effort has been led by the Montezuma Land Conservancy with assistance from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
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These easements are especially beneficial to wildlife because they adjoin major tracts of public land and help preserve a major deer and elk migration corridor. The route allows big game to move without impediment from the alpine to mid-level elevations and then to winter range farther west.
“These easements connect large expanses of land that are extremely beneficial to wildlife,” said Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango. “This is not only helpful to deer and elk, but to numerous species of wildlife that rely on this landscape.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked with the Montezuma Land Conservancy to negotiate the latest easement and contributed $146,000. Also contributing were Great Outdoors Colorado, $200,000, and the Gates Foundation, $100,000.
The 960-acre tract adjoins the 5,000-acre Lone Cone State Wildlife Area, two other ranches under easement, and U.S. Forest Service property. The forest service land, in turn, connects to the 12,000-acre Lone Mesa State Park.
Although the easements do not guarantee public hunting access to the private parcels, these properties are critical for the health of the big game in the area. The parcels provide significant habitat for big game animals, including areas where deer and elk give birth to their young. Also protected are woodlands, oak brush, riparian and wetland areas.
During nearly two decades of work, the Montezuma Land Conservancy has helped conserve more than 42,000 acres of ranch land and wildlife habitat. In most cases, easement holders must also prepare management plans that guide maintenance of the conservation values of the property.
“These properties protect a significant high-country corridor,” said Jon Leibowitz, executive director of the Montezuma Land Conservancy. “The benefits for wildlife are immeasurable.”
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.
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