Statewide habitat work coming thanks to CPW, Land Board and NWTF
After a demonstration of its capabilities, (left to right) Spezze, Ochis and Prenzlow pose in front of the new hydro ax.
(photo courtesy CPW)
EDGEFIELD, S.C. — Work to improve habitat for a variety of wildlife will now be conducted year-round across Colorado thanks to a unique new public-private partnership between Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado State Land Board and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
The three organizations have joined forces to buy a “hydro ax” that resembles a large farm threshing machine. But, instead of removing seed from husks, the hydro ax pulverizes large bushes and trees, such as junipers and piñon pine that grow like weeds and encroach on grasslands and other wildlife habitat.
The hydro ax agreement was announced in June with a demonstration at the Chancellor Ranch east of Trinidad in the canyonlands of Las Animas and Baca counties.
Large junipers were devoured in minutes by the hydro ax – its large, spinning teeth chewed up branches and spit out big splinters of wood. With a single operator in an air-conditioned cab, the hydro ax did in a few hours work that typically would require several days by a crew working in the field with chainsaws and mulching machines.
Dan Prenzlow, CPW Southeast Regional manager, praised the partnership that resulted in the CSLB purchasing the hydro ax and turning it over to the state to operate and maintain under the daily supervision of the NWTF staff.
“We work collaboratively with both the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Land Board on all kinds of different projects, but this one is special,” Prenzlow said. “This is a very expensive piece of equipment to buy. It’s expensive to run and it takes a lot maintenance. But, there’s no piece of equipment that will touch it to improve habitat; basically instantaneously, for wildlife and livestock.”
The idea for the collaboration came as the partners discussed a mutual problem, said Greg Ochis, assistant director at the CSLB, which owns and manages 3 million acres of trust land across Colorado, much of which is leased for grazing or public recreation such as hunting.
“We realized that we had a common issue; we were hiring contractors to do tree treatments on our properties and it was very expensive,” Ochis said. “We could never do as much treatment as we wanted to in a given year.”
Sharing responsibilities made the purchase possible and a key to the deal was the NWTF’s willingness to handle day-to-day administrative details and providing support from a biologist to map projects for the hydro ax to tackle and measure its success.
Tom Spezze, the NWTF’s conservation field manager for eight southwestern states, praised the partnership as unique nationwide.
“Nowhere do we have a three-way partnership between a state board of land commission and a state wildlife agency on a landscape-scale conservation project like this,” Spezze said. “With the State Land Board controlling 3 million acres in the state and Colorado Parks and Wildlife having roughly 1 million acres of state wildlife areas, this is an opportunity to really push our Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative for conservation and for access in a substantial way,” Spezze said.
Ochis said the hydro ax will remove juniper on Chancellor Ranch, improving habitat for bighorn sheep, which like open sightlines across canyons. Spezze envisions it removing brush that destroys grasslands favored by wild turkey. Prenzlow said it will transform state wildlife areas for big game species like deer, elk and antelope as well as benefit quail habitat, songbirds and threatened and endangered species like sage grouse and lesser prairie chickens.
Prenzlow said the hydro ax will have a dramatic impact on habitat improvement in Colorado.
“This wouldn’t have happened without the partnership,” Prenzlow said. “To my knowledge this has never been done nationally. We’re excited about that. We never mind when Colorado leads the nation.”
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.5 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit a historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters’ rights. The NWTF has facilitated the investment of $488 million in wildlife conservation and the preservation of North America’s hunting heritage. The NWTF has improved more than 17 million acres of wildlife habitat and introduces 100,000 people to the outdoors each year. The NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to raise $1.2 billion to conserve and enhance more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruit at least 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting. For more information, visit NWTF.org.
About Colorado Parks and Wildlife
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.
About the State Land Board
The Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners (the State Land Board) is a constitutionally created agency that manages a $4 billion endowment of assets for the intergenerational benefit of Colorado’s K-12 schoolchildren and public institutions. The agency is the second-largest landowner in Colorado and generates revenue on behalf of beneficiaries by leasing nearly 3 million surface acres and 4 million subsurface acres for agriculture, grazing, recreation, commercial real estate, rights-of-way, renewable energy, oil, gas and solid minerals. Unlike public lands, trust lands are not open to the public unless a property has been leased for public access. The agency is entirely self-funded and receives no tax dollars.