Parks and Wildlife awards Bitterbrush State Wildlife Area with a reclamation grant

Funds to be used to reseed public lands affected by Cedar Knob fire

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“This is a really important winter range for big game in the area. This project is going to focus on rebuilding the native forage important to Northwest Colorado’s famous mule deer and elk herds.”

Trevor Balzer, sagebrush habitat coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Grand Junction.

— New grant money will help improve big game winter range habitat in the Bitterbrush State Wildlife Area south of Maybell.

The grant funding was part of $280,000 awarded this week by Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Habitat Partnership Program. The Bears Ears Winter Range Habitat Enhancement Initiative was the recipient of $100,000 for the project in the Bitterbrush SWA.

Habitat Partnership Program grants are awarded internally. The Bears Ears Winter Range Habitat Enhancement Initiative grant was submitted by Trevor Balzer, a sagebrush habitat coordinator for Parks and Wildlife in Grand Junction, in conjunction with Parks and Wildlife’s Area 6 management staff in Meeker.

Balzer cited last summer’s Cedar Knob Fire as his motivation for applying for the grant. The Cedar Knob Fire burned an estimated 1,100 acres of public and private lands south of Maybell, including lands adjacent to and within the Bitterbrush SWA.

Because of the high intensity of the Cedar Knob fire, Balzer said much of the seed bank at Bitterbrush was destroyed.

The reclamation plan will encompass two phases, he said, including aerial feeding of approximately 700 acres with bitterbrush and sagebrush seed.

Parks and Wildlife officials also plan to reclaim a 150-acre wheat grass pasture, which also will be seeded with alfalfa and small burnett.

“This is a really important winter range for big game in the area,” Balzer said. “This project is going to focus on rebuilding the native forage important to Northwest Colorado’s famous mule deer and elk herds.”

The Habitat Partnership Program was created in 1990 to help reduce the amount of damage caused by big game to agricultural operators, according to a Parks and Wildlife news release.

“These grants will help fund public land habitat projects that will improve range conditions for both livestock and wildlife,” said Pat Tucker, statewide coordinator for the Habitat Partnership Program. “The goal is to keep big game on public lands longer, reducing their impacts to private landowners.”

The two other initiatives that received Habitat Partnership Program funds were the Sand Gulch/Kerr Gulch Large-Scale Habitat Enhancement Project, which was awarded $100,000 to improve wildlife and livestock habitat near Howard, and the Trail Gulch Habitat Enhancement and Fuels Reduction project, which received $80,000 for big game habitat improvement and fuel reduction projects near Cañon City.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@CraigDailyPress.com

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