Log In

Reset Password

Montezuma Land Conservancy gets $277K grant for wildlife habitat projects

Projects support wetlands to benefit Gunnison sage grouse, big game and ranches
The Montezuma Land Conservancy helped put this land into a conservation easement to preserve sage brush habitat depended on by the Gunnison sage grouse. (Courtesy photo)

A $277,679 grant has been awarded to the Montezuma Land Conservancy for projects to improve wildlife habitat on private and public lands in Dolores and San Miguel counties.

The funding was provided by the Restoration and Stewardship of Outdoor Resources and Environment, which recently awarded $3.1 million in grants to 10 habitat stewardship projects across the state.

Montezuma Land Conservancy will use the funding to improve natural landscapes and habitat, including for the threatened Gunnison sage grouse and big game, said Executive Director Travis Custer and Conservation Director Jaime Johnson in an interview Thursday.

The project goals are to implement habitat improvements to keep water on the land and remove invasive tamarisk.

To help land retain water, about 100 Zeedyk structures will be installed mostly on private land.

The hand-built structures of wood and rock help restore hydrologic and ecological function of wet meadows and small streams impacted by head cutting, gully erosion and channel incision.

The structures help to slow down water and restore the mesic habitat, which refers to land that provides a more balanced supply of moisture throughout the growing season.

Wetter areas also increase potential habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse, Johnson said, by promoting growth of forbs, grasses and insect populations that help feed grouse chicks.

A researcher holds a Gunnison sage grouse chick. (The Journal file)

Keeping water on the land longer also supports pasture for livestock and big game habitat, a benefit for the landowner, she said.

“These restoration efforts help with water retention, especially important with the increasing drought conditions. The goal is to keep water on the ground for longer,” Custer said. “Landowners also will enjoy increased wildlife attracted to areas with improved moisture, from birds, to big and small game.”

Zeedyk structures benefit landowners by reducing erosion and creating grazing area, Johnson added.

“These much-needed projects, provided through RESTORE, will retain and slow water’s movement through the Southwest’s arid landscape. This not only creates better habitat for Gunnison sage grouse and big game, it also benefits working lands,” she said.

The grant will fund removal and treatment of 160 acres overrun by invasive tamarisk in Dry Creek Basin in San Miguel County.

It will pay for two part-time coordinators to help implement the habitat restoration projects in Dolores and San Miguel counties.

RESTORE Colorado is a public-private partnership that combines and leverages state, federal and corporate funding.

Program partners are NFWF, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Occidental, Corteva Agriscience, the Gates Family Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The program launched in 2020 with the purpose of awarding grants to restore or enhance riparian, grassland, sagebrush, forests and big game wintering range habitat in the region.

A Gunnison sage grouse stands near Gunnison with tail feathers fanned. (The Journal file)