DOW habitat program seeks proposals

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is now accepting proposals from landowners interested in wildlife habitat conservation and in providing wildlife-related recreational access to their properties.

Through the DOW’s Wildlife Habitat Protection Program, up to $15 million is available this year for conservation easements or fee title purchases. Proposals will be accepted through 5 p.m. June 30.

The DOW is most interested in high-priority habitat areas that are located throughout the state. These areas have been identified by wildlife managers and biologists as top priorities because they provide unique habitat considered critical to wildlife conservation. The loss of habitat is a primary cause of the decline of many wildlife species.

This is the fourth year that the DOW is accepting proposals for the habitat program. Since 2006, the DOW has protected more than 66,000 acres of wildlife habitat through the program and more than $40 million has been spent on the conservation effort.

Colorado’s Wildlife Habitat Protection Program accepts proposals from property owners, local government open-space programs, land trusts or other conservation organizations.

Proposals should address one or more of the following priorities: winter range for big game; migration corridors for big game; access for hunting and/or fishing opportunities; habitat for threatened or endangered species or species of concern; and wetlands and riparian corridors. Proposals are also sought that help to enhance State Wildlife Areas through providing, for example, a more manageable boundary, securing an in-holding, and improving public access for wildlife-related recreation.

The preferred strategy of the program is the use of perpetual conservation easements. These provide incentives to private property owners to keep land in agricultural production, and to actively assist with the management and protection of the priority species and landscapes. Conservation easements guarantee that landscapes will remain intact and provide fundamental wildlife benefits on a long-term basis.

Private landowners have the opportunity to choose between perpetual conservation easements or fee simple acquisition for their properties.

All conservation easements funded from the program require development of a management plan by the DOW and the landowner. The implications of a management plan should be carefully considered by the property owner prior to submitting a proposal. The conservation easements purchased under this program must include the protection of open space and of the wildlife habitat on the property.

The protections sought by the DOW include, but are not limited to: restrictions on the type, timing and duration of livestock grazing; the type and timing of recreational activities; and the overall management of vegetation on the property. Negotiating the terms and conditions of the management plan is a key step in the process. The DOW encourages property owners to develop a clear vision for the future of their properties prior to entering into negotiations.

Property owners can file a proposal themselves, or seek assistance from a local government entity or a conservation organization.

Landowners who wish to participate in this program are strongly encouraged to donate a percentage of the value of the property. The value of any landowner donation will be given significant weight in DOW’s evaluation, ranking, and selection of properties.

All proposals will undergo a rigorous biological review and ranking process. Property owners are encouraged to contact a local DOW area wildlife manager to assist with information needed in the proposal.

Notification of the Colorado Wildlife Commission’s decision on proposals will be sent to all applicants by Nov. 13, 2009.

For more information, to view the DOW’s habitat priority map and for the application form, go to the Web site: http://wildlife.state.co.us. Under “Things to Know” in the middle of the home page, click on, “Proposals: Wildlife Habitat Protection Program.” The application can be filled out on your computer or printed out.

For more information, contact Diane Gansauer, land protection specialist, (303) 291-7217, diane.gansauer@state.co.us.