Colorado Partners Conserve $12M Worth of Habitat in Intermountain Region Since 1989

Native cutthroat trout, Red-naped Sapsuckers, and a variety of neo-tropical migrants all benefit from this project on the South Fork of the Little Snake River. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program) just marked its 25th Anniversary in 2012. After its inception in 1987 in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Great Plains, the Partners Program quickly expanded to Colorado and other mountain states. Since the signing of Colorado Partners Program’s first recorded landowner agreement in 1989, roughly 1,060 agreements have been signed statewide, with 604 of those located within the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) portion of Colorado.

The Partners Program is a voluntary and administratively simple effort on the part of the Service to work with landowners interested in habitat restoration and enhancement. The Partners take pride in that simplicity and also in our approach of giving field biologists the decision-making power to select projects for funding. This creates a level of trust and cooperation between landowners and Partners biologists that is rarely associated with government programs.

As a Federal program, the emphasis is on habitat for migratory birds and declining species. The State also embraces these goals, which has led to a close and long-standing funding relationship with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The State has been providing wetland and riparian habitat restoration dollars directly to the Partners Program for years.

In cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and local partners, this State funding, when combined with the Partners’ allocated budget, landowner contributions, and North American Wetlands Conservation Act dollars, has allowed Partners to put $12,142,070 worth of habitat on the ground in the IWJV area of Colorado since 1989.

This funding has restored or enhanced 24,123 acres of wetlands, 56,264 acres of uplands, and 192 riparian stream miles within the IWJV region of Colorado, alone. These projects targeted wetland and riparian habitat for migratory birds, especially for waterfowl and shorebirds in San Luis Valley and North Park, which are critical areas for waterfowl production and migration within the Intermountain West (a point strongly reinforced by the presence of five National Wildlife Refuges in their intermountain valleys).

Riparian restoration projects, primarily fencing and grazing management, have improved habitat for riparian species such the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (listed as Endangered) and Yellow-billed Cuckoo (listed as Candidate). Sagebrush-steppe projects to benefit Greater and Gunnison’s Sage-Grouse have also been a high priority. Colorado Partners continue to work closely with NRCS biologists to help implement the Sage Grouse Initiative.

An increasing number of stream restoration projects for native trout and removal of invasive tamarisk and Russian olive trees also demonstrate the admirable collaboration and commitment between landowners and the Partners Program over the last 25 years.

The Partners Program looks forward to the next, and even more productive, quarter century!