Colorado Wildlife Habitat Improvement Effort Shows Strong Progress in 2014
Posted on: Jun 16, 2014
Ranch Advisory has been assisting XTO Energy, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, and the Bureau of Land Management improve foraging opportunities for big game in Colorado's Piceance Basin since 2009. This area is the source of the Rockies Express Pipeline that carries natural gas to many communities in the Upper Midwest. It's also winter habitat for some of the largest herds of mule deer and elk in Colorado. The area has known intensive encroachment by pinion pine and junipers for decades, and this growth has greatly reduced biomass production of desired shrubs used by big game. We worked with XTO and the agencies in the effort to improve the growth of desired mountain shrubs for improved big game foraging opportunities. 2014 marks the second growing season since P/J trees were removed, and growth by mountain shrubs has been strong. CPW will track use of the area by big game in coming winters. Maps and photos of the 100,000-acre project area are shown below.
The photo below shows a pre-treatment view of the area. Younger P/J trees (roughly 25 to 50 years) are moving into a former sagebrush park. In time, P/J will greatly reduce the biomass production of shrubs preferred for foraging by big game.
The map below shows a topographic map of areas where P/J was removed (inside the red lines). The small parcel size (about 0.7 to 3.5 acres each) and irregular shape maximizes "edge" whereby big game may find cover to efficiently move among treatment areas while foraging. The blue circles and labels denote vegetative monitoring sites to track vegetative response to the treatments.
The photo below shows a site that was mechanically treated. Note that all vegetation was mulched to the soil surface, which enhances nutrient loading and entices sprouting of mountain shrubs. The "edge" between the former P/J stand and the treated area may be seen in the background.
The photo below shows the vegetative response in the second growing season following the treatment. Vigor on desired grasses, forbs, and shrubs is high, and foraging opportunities for big game appear to be strong. Biomass production for use by big game is much higher here than in the adjacent untreated area.
Watch for further news posts here as this continuing effort progresses.