Community Agriculture Alliance: Management plans benefit both producers, wildlife | SteamboatToday.com
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Community Agriculture Alliance: Management plans benefit both producers, wildlife

Becky Jones/For Steamboat Today
Community Ag Alliance
CommunityAg

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you’re lucky enough to live in the mountains, you’re lucky enough”? I have made the Yampa Valley my home for 16 years and counting, and with the huge diversity of wildlife species just out my backdoor, I definitely think I am lucky enough.

As a private lands wildlife biologist in a partnership position with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, I have the pleasure of working with conservation-minded landowners throughout Northwest Colorado, incorporating wildlife habitat needs into their management plans.

Establishing pollinator plantings, brush manipulation for elk and deer habitat improvements, riparian restoration and pinon juniper removal to improve sagebrush habitat are a some of the ways landowners in the community are voluntarily enhancing, conserving and protecting wildlife habitat.

According to NRCS, two-thirds of land in the lower 48 states is privately owned. These working farms, ranches and forests produce much of the country’s food and fiber, while providing much of our nation’s open space and wildlife habitat. Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s fish and wildlife habitat occur on private lands, making conservation efforts on farms, ranches and forests crucial to many species. This holds true for Routt County, with an estimated 50 percent of the land being privately owned.

NRCS works in close partnership with agricultural producers to maintain productive working landscapes, while integrating wildlife-friendly conservation practices. Conservation improvements are a win-win, both for agricultural producers and wildlife. What private landowners do with their land directly affects wildlife populations in our area.

Developing a wildlife management plan will improve the chances of attaining wildlife and achieving your habitat goals on your property. A plan will identify a schedule for implementing habitat practices to maximize efficiency and produce the best outcomes for wildlife.

Whether you own cropland, rangeland, forest, wetlands or a combination of these, implementing different practices can dramatically improve wildlife habitat and species on your land. The suitability of a particular practice depends on your current land use, soil capabilities, vegetation and other factors. Start with a few practices, and plan to expand or add a few practices each year. Monitoring will help you keep track of what’s working and what’s not.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help private landowners and managers restore and protect habitat. This voluntary conservation work is good for fish and wildlife, while also improving conditions on agricultural working lands.

Assistance is available through Farm Bill conservation programs to producers who want to make conservation improvements to their land, which not only benefits the species and habitat, but also helps them strengthen their operations by lowering input costs and improving efficiency and yields.

Whether you own five or 5,000 acres, implementing a few habitat improvements on your property can go a long way toward helping wildlife.

Becky Jones is a private lands wildlife biologist in a partnership position with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. Those interested in restoring, conserving, enhancing or protecting wildlife habitat on private land and who would like assistance are invited to contact Jones at becky.jones@co.usda.gov


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