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Colorado: Conserving Waterfowl Habitat in the Centennial State

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April 15th, 2004

From the vast open spaces of the eastern plains, across the rugged peaks of the Continental Divide, to the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado is a land of diversity and contrast. Although better known for big game hunting and skiing, Colorado is also a critical migration, breeding and wintering area for tens of thousands of ducks and geese. Not all waterfowl habitat in Colorado, however, is created equally.

Colorado wetlands play a critical role in providing migration habitat, not only for resident birds, but also for ducks and geese migrating from such important wintering areas like the high plains and the coast of Texas, north to breeding grounds in the Dakotas and southern Canada. Colorado’s wetlands provide essential nutrients to fuel these long migrations, ensuring birds arrive on their breeding grounds in prime physical condition. The eastern plains of Colorado, particularly the South Platte River corridor in the northeastern part of the state, are a prime example of top-quality migration habitat. Ducks Unlimited’s efforts in this region focus on restoring and protecting shallow wetland habitats along river corridors. These key stop-over sites provide much needed foraging and loafing areas for migrating birds, as well as wintering habitat for such important species as mallard and Canada geese.

The heart of North America’s waterfowl production lies in the Prairie Pothole region of the Dakotas and southern Canada. Although small in comparison to the vast prairie breeding habitats, Colorado’s intermountain basins support incredible numbers of nesting ducks. Prime nesting areas such as the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge in the San Luis Valley have duck nesting densities that exceed 1,000 nests per square mile, far exceeding even the best prairie habitat that seldom experience nest densities over 300 duck nests per square mile. High elevation wetlands created by beaver and glacial activity also provide more dependable nesting conditions than the drought-prone prairies. Ducks Unlimited efforts focus on protecting relatively intact systems in such areas as North Park and the San Luis Valley and restoring and managing breeding areas for waterfowl and a wide diversity of other waterbirds.

Colorado has one of the fastest growing human populations in the United States. Unprecedented human development has encroached on wetlands and threatens wetland wildlife’s most critical resource – water. Ducks Unlimited recognizes the need to protect this scare resource by designing projects that are water efficient and by protecting water rights on all our conservation easement lands in the state. In conjunction with partners such as the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, The Nature Conservancy, local conservation organizations, private landowners and others, Ducks Unlimited has delivered over 20,000 acres of wetland conservation projects since 1997.

Despite these successes, the race against time and human development continues. Ducks Unlimited continues to search for innovative ways to strategically address the needs of waterfowl in the key habitat areas of Colorado in the most economically effective ways possible. Our work is vital not only to the nearly 500 species of wetland dependent wildlife in the state, but also to the people of Colorado and neighboring states who depend on the clean, dependable water supplies that wetlands provide. Water for drinking, agriculture, recreation and wildlife. Accomplishing our Mission is only possible with the support of people like you. Please join us in establishing a legacy of which we can all be proud.
 
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