Community Agriculture Alliance: Agriculture and wildlife | SteamboatToday.com

Community Agriculture Alliance: Agriculture and wildlife

Kris Middledorf/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Fortunately, in Colorado, we have a diverse array of public and private lands intermixed across the landscape. Deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, black bear, mountain lion, numerous small mammals along with birds of all shapes and sizes inhabit these lands.

Some of the most valuable lands in terms of habitat are privately owned where a combination of land stewardship and agriculture play an important role in maintaining diverse ecological communities and sustaining wildlife populations. Some of these lands hold wildlife yearround, and others are critical during difficult times of the year when food resources are limited and when summer ranges are covered in snow too deep for even the largest of our big game animals to survive.

In a county with diverse agriculture and wildlife, conflicts can and do occur. These conflicts are a product of what we need for our daily existence — raw agriculture products for food and feeding livestock — and what wildlife need for space and forage.  These conflicts hit close to home for our local agriculture producers whether its depredation of livestock by black bear and mountain lions or elk foraging on growing or stacked hay.  It can be difficult to find a balance between the needs of wildlife and agricultural production.

There are two programs administered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to mitigate the conflicts that occur between wildlife and agricultural production. The CPW Game Damage Program and Habitat Partnership Program can provide a variety of tools to help our agricultural producers: stack yards to protect hay; electric fencing to protect bee hives; high visibility smooth wire fencing to minimize wildlife entanglement; deterrents such as cracker shells and rubber buckshot and many other tools. CPW will reimburse eligible agricultural producers for their losses.  This is a statutory requirement but also something we believe in because private landowners provide a tremendous amount of habitat for all of our wildlife species.

The Habitat Partnership Program is able to fund projects that include and go beyond conflicts with agriculture production and wildlife. These projects can include anything that will help maintain game management objectives.  A landowner who wants to improve the habitat conditions on their property can bring project ideas to their local HPP Committee.  Examples of these projects might include developing a spring, clearing thick brush or other vegetative treatments to improve habitat for wildlife, or planting forage for wildlife in strategic locations to deter wildlife from feeding on growing and stacked hay.

Our wildlife is a resource for everyone to enjoy whether in a consumptive or nonconsumptive manner, and it is our mission to protect this resource for Coloradans and our out of state visitors. With that said, we sincerely appreciate our private land stewards who work tirelessly to maintain and enhance their lands, which invariably benefits all of us, whether the food we eat, or the wildlife we can enjoy. If you need any assistance please contact our Steamboat Springs Office and ask to speak with your local District Wildlife Manager, they can lend a hand in a variety of ways whether through our Game Damage Program or Habitat Partnership Program.

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Kris Middledorf is the area wildlife manager in Area 10 for Colorado Parks and Wildlife,

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