Over 25 years, ConocoPhillips has contributed some $2.3 million to PLJV for use as seed money to get the ball rolling on conservation and habitat projects. One such project resulted in creation of an oasis, on the arid eastern Colorado plains. The Kiowa Creek area was a project with a local economic development fund out of Eads, Colorado, that was looking to gain some wildlife tourism coming to the area, and they had some property they wanted to restore.
This is Playa Country — a weekly look at the wildlife, wetlands and prairies of the western Great Plains, and the people who manage them — brought to you by Playa Lakes Joint Venture, an organization dedicated to conserving birds and bird habitat.
In this series, we’re learning about corporate philanthropy toward conservation and wildlife habitat, and specifically what ConocoPhillips has helped achieve by providing seed money for projects. Conservation and wildlife habitat projects often are funded by grants from state and federal government, but when a non-governmental entity — like a petroleum production company — contributes funds, it’s a big deal.
“It shows societal support. So when you have corporate dollars behind a project, it makes the project that much better.” That’s Mike Carter, coordinator of Playa Lakes Joint Venture.
Over 25 years, ConocoPhillips has contributed some $2.3 million to PLJV for use as seed money to get the ball rolling on conservation and habitat projects. One such project resulted in creation of an oasis, on the arid eastern Colorado plains.
“The Kiowa Creek area was a project with a local economic development fund out of Eads, Colorado, that was looking to gain some wildlife tourism coming to the area, and they had some property they wanted to restore. There’s a little creek with a wetland and a few ponds. They wanted to make this the best waterfowl and wetland habitat that they could.” Christopher Rustay is conservation delivery leader for Playa Lakes Joint Venture. “So they got a ConocoPhillips grant to go after this. They used that ConocoPhillips grant to go after two North American Wetland Conservation Act grants and were able to restore a nice wetland, about a section of land. Their getting a whole lot of waterfowl coming in to use both the reservoir and the creek — perfect for birds, such as Blue-winged Teal and American Avocet, that are looking to nest there.”
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory was a partner, and Seth Gallagher was involved. “Some of the accomplishments of the restoration… they added 8.4 acres of open water to the wetland area below the dam that were choked out with cattails. The response by birds was instantaneous! I mean, the day after, they had ducks on the pond. In addition to the open water, they created 3 acres of wet meadow which shorebird response was almost immediate. And then, there’s an active management plan now in place to sort of help curb that encroachment by the cattails and to keep the area open for a lot of the waterfowl and waterbirds.”
Gallagher points out the project sought to accomplish multiple goals including economic development for Eads, population 600. “The Jackson Pond area itself was recreational fishing. The wetland area was more of an area for quiet enjoyment, for people to go out and just birdwatch and provide that habitat. The Eads community had been involved with watchable wildlife type programs for a long time. They are one of the main stops on the High Plains Snow Goose festival. So they realize the value of having these watchable wildlife areas in their community, spots that really draw people and maybe allow people to hang out a little longer in a community where they wouldn’t otherwise stop.”
Christopher Rustay says quality of life was improved, and that economic development goal was achieved. “They made a sweet little area in this corner of Colorado that doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic, and from what I understand, it’s been part of a nature trail that sorta says, ‘Hey, if you go here, you can find good places to watch birds in this area.” As a result, the local area is benefitting from increased tourism, increased money being spent in their town, as people come to view the birds.”
Seth Gallagher can’t stress enough, the importance of non-federal funding, like the ConocoPhillips grants, getting these conservation projects moving. “You know, there’s just not that many pots of money out there that are private in nature. When projects like this get an infusion of private dollars, the ability to leverage state and federal funding… I’m sure it was probably leveraged four, six, maybe even a dozen times over. So, the ConocoPhillips funding for seed projects like this… I wish there was a way to encourage more corporations to do the same.”
You’ve been listening to Playa Country, a weekly show about the wildlife, people and landscapes of the western Great Plains. This program is made possible by the Playa Lakes and Rainwater Basin Joint Ventures.
Original broadcast: May 2015