Panel 1: Sage Grouse Partnerships
Saturday, September 22, 8:15-9:45 AM. University Center Ballroom Breakfast and Registration begin at 7:15 AM
The Gunnison Climate Working Group was formed in December 2009 as part of the Southwest Climate Change Initiative coordinated by The Nature Conservancy. The Working Group chose, as one of three focus areas, the conservation of the Gunnison sage-grouse in relation to impacts of climate change. The focus of the group’s efforts are tied to climate adaptation strategies, in other words, what can be done on the ground today, proactively, to
reduce impacts of climate change and build resiliency into sage-grouse habitat. The effort requires a collaborative approach where landowners, federal agencies, state agencies, restoration experts, non-profit conservation organizations, funders, Western State Colorado University, a cadre of volunteers, and others work together and bring a variety of tools and expertise to the table. The specific project underway, focused on by this panel, is a riparian restoration project on two private lands in the Gunnison Basin. Hydrological collapse has characterized the sagebrush ecosystem and small projects where small watersheds are restored potentially help Gunnison Sage-grouse broods to survive a bottleneck in their annual cycle where brood rearing habitat is scarce and degraded. The implementation of this project requires scientific expertise, willingness by landowners, and lots of manual labor – performed by a variety of volunteers. This is a humble start on two private properties, and this demonstration project has the potential to fuel additional projects on private and public lands. Eventually, if enough small watersheds are affects, the sage-grouse may respond.
Rufus Wilderson, Attorney and private landowner
Owns the Wolf Creek Property associated with the Kaichen State Wildlife Area, one of the two selected sites for the demonstration phase of the Gunnison Sage-grouse riparian climate adaptation demonstration project; for private lands, none of these partnerships are possible without cooperating landowners who see the value in the restoration work.
Betsy Neely, Senior Conservation Planner, The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Program
Betsy is one of the driving players in organizing the Gunnison Climate Working Group and has the big picture perspective about the partnership, she will be able to speak about the history of the group and the mission. The Gunnison Basin is one of four pilot landscape projects in the Southwest US testing ways to sustain natural resources in a changing climate. It is a critical place for climate adaptation as it overlaps with species conservation of the Gunnison sage-grouse.
Mark Hatcher, Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA Forest Service, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, Gunnison Ranger District. The first phase of the Gunnison sage-grouse Riparian Restoration Project, as a component of climate change adaptation, is focused on private lands, but this work is also needed across the landscape to target lost hydrological function. Mark is a representative of the federal agency management of public lands in the Gunnison Basin and will provide a perspective of the opportunities for partnership and the challenges associated with working on public lands.
Nate Seward, Conservation Biologist, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Nate is a biologist and has expertise in the habitat requirements of the Gunnison Sage-grouse related to the annual cycle of the bird. Further, Nate provides a perspective on the technical aspects of the restoration project and the thinking behind the loss of habitat function and the opportunity for restoring these functions.