ConocoPhillips Grant Projects
Colorado Open Lands will enhance 340 acres of habitat on the Prewitt Ranch Conservation Easement and Prewitt State Wildlife Area in Washington County, Colorado, increasing the quantity and quality of habitat available to nonbreeding waterfowl of the South Platte River. The southern shore of Prewitt Reservoir maintains shallow-water wetlands used by thousands of waterfowl during the spring and fall migration. Existing shallow areas are currently cut-off by sand dams created by ice flows and by the topography of the reservoir edge, which limits their use by wildlife. Areas identified as habitat in the margins of the reservoir will be enhanced through the careful excavation of material which will create a natural back-flooding of shallow basins to provide quality habitat for birds and wetland wildlife where none exists now. Small levees with water control structures will be placed on the margins of the reservoir that will provide additional flooded shallow water habitat.
The vast majority of habitat along the North Platte River is privately owned and subject to development pressures and other activities that result in lost or degraded habitat. Through this project, 164 acres of wetland habitat will be perpetually protected with a Ducks Unlimited conservation easement and bring the total protected acres along the North Platte River in Scotts Bluff county to nearly 7,500 acres. One of the main goals of ongoing conservation activities in this region is to protect remaining habitat through outright acquisition or securing conservation easements. This is a rare opportunity to have protection on both sides of the river which is critically important for true landscape protection. Wetlands associated with the North Platte River provide critical habitat to millions of migratory birds. Hundreds of thousands of waterfowl use these riverine habitats as loafing, roosting and feeding areas extensively during migration and wintering periods. This project will expand and complement earlier conservation efforts to protect and restore wetland habitat along the North Platte River.
Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance will restore two miles (36 acres) of Wolf Creek on Fort Union Ranch, a 95,000-acre working cattle ranch since 1885. After years of excessive grazing and consequent degradation, current ranch administration strives to improve management and implement restorative measures. This project will restore hydrologic functionality and health of riparian and wetland communities to benefit wildlife, especially waterbirds. Various techniques will be used to reinstate meanders and improve water infiltration and storage in surrounding soils and wetlands, all to improve wetland habitat conditions. This project complements a small NAWCA proposal to protect the area with a Conservation Easement, fence to protect riparian areas from grazing, and planting of woody riparian vegetation. It will support and maintain riparian and wetland vegetation and conditions locally and throughout the region.
Ducks Unlimited will use this grant to purchase the remaining 125 acres of the Drummond Flats wetland basin in northcentral Oklahoma. Since 2006, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and its partners have undertaken efforts to protect this historic wetland basin. To date, approximately 5,000 contiguous acres of basin and buffer tracts have been acquired, without any inholdings. Additionally, 93% of the historic 4,000 acre wetland basin has been acquired. With the acquisition of these two tracts, efforts to initiate full basin restoration activities can proceed. It is anticipated that as a result of ongoing coordination between ODWC and other involved agencies, those restoration activities could begin within the next two to three years.
Schiller Conservation Easement
Ducks Unlimited will acquire a conservation easement on a 640-acre property in Logan County, Colorado. The easement will protect 169 acres of high quality emergent wetlands, 260 acres of irrigated cropland, and 211 acres of shortgrass prairie along the South Platte River. The wetland will be permanently protected having already been restored through the US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish Wildlife Program. The property is near a cluster of nearly 14,000 acres of already protected lands, much of which are open for public hunting and will buffer these protected lands, which provide habitat for thousands of waterfowl and other waterbirds during the spring and fall migration. This project will directly support PLJV goals of providing habitat for priority species such as Northern Pintail, Mallard, Long-billed Curlew, and Mountain Plover.
Kansas Playa Wetland Renovations
Three conservation partners — Ducks Unlimited (DU), Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) and Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS) — are starting a incentivized playa conservation program for full wetland restoration, with prioritization given to tracts enrolled in public access programs through KDWPT. The project will seek to fully utilize restoration funding available through several funding sources by combining DU’s technical expertise and funding expertise from KDWPT and KAWS. This project will provide benefit to PLJV priority waterfowl, shorebird, and grassland species.
Foraging Ecology of Ducks/Shorebirds in South Platte
In this research project, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will determine avian food availability in wetland habitats for ducks and shorebirds during the nonbreeding season in northeastern Colorado. Spring bird use of wetlands will assess how well food availability predicts bird use. This research will directly inform and test assumptions of bioenergetics models used for biological planning by PLJV.
Human Dimensions of Playa Conservation Planning
Texas Tech University will use the grant for the first year of a multi-year research project to assess landowner knowledge, attitudes, understanding, and valuation of playa conservation on private lands in the Texas panhandle. The assessment will directly inform how Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) conservation professionals approach landowners to discuss playa conservation. TPWD will be closely involved in the delivery and data collection, as well as the evaluation process for developing future playa conservation actions in the region. This project meets the needs of the PLJV and the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative by providing time-sensitive information regarding the human dimensions of playa conservation.
Addressing Threats to Landscape Sustainability: Wintering Sandhill Crane Landscape Use and Requirements in Context of Climate and Landuse Change
Approximately 82% of the mid-continent population of Sandhill Cranes winter on the Southern High Plains. More-so, recent evidence suggests these cranes build the majority of their fat reserves while wintering in this region. This research project will conduct an assessment of what represents a sustainable landscape for migrating and wintering Sandhill Cranes as well as identify management strategies to protect these landscapes. This information is vital toward the development of sound management strategies for regional National Wildlife Refuges and surrounding landscapes, particularly in the long term, as the Southern High Plains is expected to become hotter and drier, with decreases in, yet increased intensity of, precipitation events due to climate change.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Wetland Restoration
This project builds on a large wetland restoration and enhancement project, funded through a North American Wetland Conservation Act grant, on the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas. Little Salt Marsh is critical to the management of several thousand acres of wetlands downstream of this unit. The larger project will replace a non-operational water control structure used to divert water from Little Salt Marsh through canals to an additional 2,761 acres of wetland units. This grant will help further restore hydrology, by funding the removal of an abandoned maintenance road that impedes natural sheet flows into Big Salt Marsh. This will restore hydrology to the 1,000 acre marsh. Together, these projects will restore and enhance 3,700 acres of wetland habitat. This will support a large number of migrating birds and provide critical wildlife habitat as Quivira is one of the most important whooping crane migration stopover habitats in the world.
Prescribed Burning for Mountain Plover Habitat on the Pawnee National Grassland
Mountain plover abundance on the Pawnee National Grassland is decreasing, therefore increasing the need for providing optimal habitat. This project includes a 640-acre spring burn on the National Grassland and plover nest and abundance surveys in the spring of 2015 to determine the success of the burn. Burning produces sparsely vegetated and disturbed ground that provides optimal habitat for nesting mountain plovers. The project area occurs in the vicinity of where mountain plovers historically nested and currently has ideal fuel conditions for burning. It is expected that mountain plovers will nest on the prescribed burn, as evidenced by their occupation of other spring burns conducted on the Pawnee National Grassland.
Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve Wetland Restoration Project
This project will enhance and manage approximately 340 acres of wetland habitat on The Nature Conservancy’s Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve in Kansas, adjacent to the Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife and Tourism wildlife area of the same name. Cheyenne Bottoms is an important migration stopover site for millions of shorebirds and waterfowl during their seasonal migration. The proposed activities include installing a new water control structure and constructing berms to create additional shallow water marsh and wet meadow habitat. Currently, water is draining from the basins into a deep, artificial ditch which is effectively draining a large area of wetland habitat which should provide shallow water habitat. This project addresses the need to increase sufficient foraging habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl to meet energetic and nutritional needs of the species.
Stinchcomb Wildlife Area Addition
Stinchcomb Wildlife Area (1,054 acres) is located along the North Canadian River in Oklahoma, and owned by Oklahoma City. A mix of plaustrine forested and emergent wetlands serves as a natural filter for city water supplies, wildlife habitat, and public recreation. This project will make improvements to an additional 91 acres adjoining Stinchcomb, now owned by Ducks Unlimited, in preparation for transfer to Oklahoma City in the near future. Habitat improvements include connecting the addition to the North Canadian floodplain by levee removal. Outreach/public use improvements include boundary fencing along public roadways, two bird watching/hunting blinds, and improved site access. The 91-acre Stinchcomb Addition will increase total habitat on the Wildlife Area by almost 9%, support winter waterfowl populations between 9,000 – 28,000 and provide increased outreach and public use opportunities for citizens of Oklahoma City.
Response of Lesser Prairie-Chickens to Mesquite Removal and Prescribed Fire
A two-year study of Lesser Prairie-Chicken on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) properties in eastern New Mexico has identified mesquite encroachment as a factor limiting available habitat and if left unchecked will likely be a detriment to population persistence and growth. This project will help to understand the effects of both targeted mesquite removal and fire on Lesser Prairie-Chicken occupied areas through trapping, deploying VHF and satellite PTT/GPS transmitters, and tracking the bird during and following mesquite treatment, removal, and prescribed fire. Results from this research will be combined with movement and habitat use data collected at the same site in 2013 and 2014 to better understand response of Lesser Prairie-Chicken to on-the-ground management applications.
Verifying Ground-based Habitat Quality Monitoring and Micro-Habitat Selection by Lesser Prairie-Chickens with Remote Sensing Technology
The purpose of this project is to carry out habitat remote sensing trials within and near a 10,000-acre ranch in the CRP / Shortgrass Ecoregion of western Kansas. The project site is located in an area where 1) the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have both designated Priority Lesser Prairie-chicken (LEPC) Conservation Areas; 2) LEPC habitat quality, demographics and micro-habitat site selection are being intensively studied with robust satellite-generated location technology; 3) the landowner is currently enrolled in an NRCS- LEPC Conservation Initiative (LPCI) contract; 4) the landowner intends to establish a perpetual conservation bank with perpetual habitat monitoring requirements; and 5) baseline vegetation clipping trials to facilitate multi-spectral remote sensing imagery are being collected by Kansas State University (KSU) researchers at TNC’s nearby Smoky Valley Ranch. Both landowners and agencies will benefit from the decision support tools that remote sensing technology can provide.