DENVER – Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and partners from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Gates Family Foundation, Occidental, Corteva Agriscience, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management awarded $3.5 million in grants to 15 habitat restoration and stewardship projects across the state. The GOCO board committed $1 million to the collaborative funding effort in March 2022.
The grants are part of the RESTORE Colorado program. Restoration and Stewardship of Outdoor Resources (RESTORE) Colorado funds at-scale habitat restoration, expansion, and improvement projects on public and private lands across priority landscapes, including:
- River corridors, riparian areas, and wetlands
- Eastern Colorado grasslands
- Big game winter range and migration routes
- Forestland projects in specific geographies
This year’s grantees generated more than $9.3 million in match funding, providing a total conservation impact of $12.8 million.
The 15 projects will:
- Restore 92 acres of floodplain habitat and open 16 miles of stream habitat to native fish passage
- Restore 10,360 acres and improve management on 76,700 acres of public and private grassland
- Restore 6,400 acres through invasive species treatment and removal
- Remove or improve 40 miles of fencing to wildlife-friendly specifications
- Restore 425 acres of forestland habitat
Grant details are as follows:
Restoring Riparian and Instream Habitat on Mancos River to Improve Connectivity for Native Fish
$587,400 grant to the Mountain Studies Institute
Funding will support the restoration of river habitat and the revegetation of degraded floodplains and in-stream habitat. The project will improve the distribution of water to benefit imperiled warm water native fish including the roundtail chub, the bluehead sucker, and the flannelmouth sucker. It will also repair two barriers for fish passage, open access to 16 miles of fish stream habitat, restore 1.34 miles of stream and aquatic habitat, restore 11.32 acres of floodplain, and treat 40 acres for invasive tamarisk.
Improving Big Game Winter Range and Migration Routes by Removing Woody Invasives
$238,900 grant to the White River Conservation District
Funding will be used to improve winter range habitat and migration routes for elk and mule deer populations. The project will manage woody species like trees and shrubs on private and public lands as part of the Stewart Gulch Coordinated Resources Management Plan for the Oldland Ranch located southwest of Meeker. Woody invasives will be treated on 974 acres of land, opening up areas for wildlife movement and improving the quality of wildlife and food for livestock.
Restoring Riparian Habitat along the Rio Grande in the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
$258,000 grant to the Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation
This funding will help improve the health and resilience of the Rio Grande downstream of the Chicago Ditch diversion dam located in the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge. River areas will be restored to benefit target species including the Rio Grande chub, the Southwestern willow flycatcher, and the northern leopard frog. Outcomes of this project will result in improved aquatic habitat and connectivity, enhanced native fisheries, restored native vegetation, reconnected floodplains, reduced streambank erosion, and improved water quality.
Eradicating Annual Invasive Grasses to Improve Elk and Mule Deer Winter Range
$328,900 grant to Larimer County Natural Resources
Funding will support the restoration of winter range habitat for mule deer and elk in Larimer, Boulder, and Jefferson counties. By controlling and removing invasive cheatgrass with herbicide, the project will restore more than 4,300 acres, making the landscape more resistant to future disturbances like wildfires and providing critical food resources for mule deer and elk.
Increasing Biodiversity and Reducing Fire Risk with Cross-Jurisdictional Forestland Restoration
$305,700 grant to the National Forest Foundation
With this funding, the National Forest Foundation will increase the quality and quantity of food for elk and mule deer, reduce the risk of catastrophic fire, improve forest resilience, and enhance water function in riverside upland forest habitat on public and private lands in Chaffee County. Over a three-year period, this project will restore 425 acres of ponderosa pine woodlands, dry mixed conifer forests, aspen stands, lodgepole pine forests, and sagebrush shrublands.
Eradicating Annual Invasives to Restore Native Grassland on Private Working Rangelands
$103,400 grant to Pheasants Forever
With these funds, Pheasants Forever will treat invasive grasses on native mixed grass and sand sagebrush habitats in sections of rangelands in Yuma County. The project will restore 2,500 acres of native grassland habitat to increase forage for cattle and wildlife.
Removing Derelict Fencing to Increase Habitat Connectivity for Big Game
$101,100 grant to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
This funding will support Backcountry Hunters & Anglers to deploy volunteers to remove 40 miles of fencing across northwest Colorado. The project will improve habitat connectivity for elk, mule deer, and pronghorn migration and dispersal.
Restoring Riparian and Upland Habitat in the Rio Grande Natural Area
$275,000 grant to Costilla County
Funding will support the restoration of river and upland habitat in the Rio Grande Natural Area to address grazing issues. Costilla County will add strategic fencing infrastructure and new wells, improve river and upland vegetation, and reduce soil erosion. This will promote river corridor connectivity, enhance water quality, provide shade for fisheries, and increase the quality of wildlife habitat.
Increasing Grassland Resilience and Productivity through Improved Grazing Management
$413,100 grant to Colorado Cattlemen’s Association
Funding will allow Colorado Cattlemen’s Association to convene a team of scientists and livestock producers to study and identify a new set of core grazing management principles. The project will focus on working lands in eastern Colorado grasslands to systematically improve resiliency and habitat quality. This will enhance management on 20,000 acres of working rangeland which will improve grassland health, support biodiversity, and increase carbon storage for better climate resilience.
Eradicating Annual Invasives to Restore Native Grassland in Weld County
$174,800 grant to the Weld County Weed Division
Funding will support the restoration of 4,000 acres of grassland habitat on private, state, and federal lands in Northern Weld County by controlling and removing invasive grasses. It will also implement a robust educational campaign to inform stakeholders and community members of project successes.
Increasing Habitat Connectivity and Driver Safety with Wildlife Underpasses on US Highway 160
$337,500 grant to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
Funds will support CDOT in constructing up to three wildlife underpass structures and installing exclusionary fencing, escape ramps, and deer guards along the U.S. Highway 160. The project will reduce wildlife vehicle collisions, connect critical habitats for mule deer and elk, improve wildlife movement across the highway, and increase driver safety.
Restoring Sagebrush Rangeland Habitat through a Conservation Partnership Coordinator
$383,400 grant to The Mule Deer Foundation
Funding will help restore 20,000 acres of habitat for mule deer, sage-grouse, and other wildlife in sagebrush rangelands in northwest Colorado. This includes removing invasive conifer and cheatgrass, restoring wet meadow water movement and distribution, reintroducing native fire regimes, improving grazing management, and modifying fencing to wildlife-friendly specifications. A Northwest Colorado Sagebrush Conservation Partnership Coordinator will be hired to identify and prioritize habitat and range improvement projects.
Improving Habitat and Public Access to the Grand Valley Wetland
$200,000 grant to Ducks Unlimited
This funding will support the restoration of 343 acres of wetland habitat in Mesa County. The project will increase the number and diversity of wetland dependent species using the wetland and riparian forest habitat in Mesa County and will provide recreational opportunities for local community members.
Restoring Riparian and Mesic Habitat in the East Troublesome Fire Scar
$300,000 to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District
Funds will be used to identify, prioritize, and implement activities to restore habitat, stream areas, and mesic areas (lands with a well-balanced supply of moisture throughout the growing season) affected by the East Troublesome Fire in Grand County. The project will implement restoration practices, aerial mulching, stream stabilization, sediment basin treatments, floodplain roughening, and debris removal. This will regenerate three miles of stream reach habitat and mesic area environments.
Restoring Forest Habitat to Benefit Big Game Species on Private, Working Lands (CO)
$100,000 grant to the Jefferson Conservation District
Funding will support the development and management of an ecology-based forest habitat restoration project on private lands in northeastern Park County. Through mechanical forest thinning methods, the project will increase structural habitat diversity and improve grass, forb (flowering plants besides grass), and shrub quantity and quality for the benefit of upland wildlife species across 200 acres of habitat.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,300 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.8 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.