RBC I Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Olsson and Associates and project funding partners came together in Rifle on Monday to launch the AGNC Greater Sage Grouse Habitat Mapping Project.
AGNC was awarded a $380,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) in late 2015 for the purpose of engaging in local scale mapping of the Greater Sage Grouse in Northwest Colorado. The CPW, seven counties in the region and some businesses stepped up with in-kind and cash matches in securing the grant.
CPW Director Bob Broscheid joined the meeting electronically and called the effort, “historic,” saying that the project, “will give us more certainty leading to better planning and conservation of the species.”
While recognizing that there will be ups and downs in the process, Director Broscheid indicated that the CPW is “all in” on the project and that this is the direction Colorado needs to go.
John Swartout, the Rural Policy and Outreach Director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, echoed Broscheid’s comments, indicating that the goal of this effort is to create a win/win for local governments, CPW and communities as well as the species.
“AGNC sees this effort as critical to conservation efforts for the Greater Sage Grouse,” said AGNC Chairman Jeff Eskelson, a Rio Blanco County commissioner and staunch supporter of the effort.
“When we have a better idea of what areas are truly critical habitat, we can develop plans that better benefit the species and will allow our counties to continue responsible growth and development,” Eskelson said. “The current maps are a good start for guidance and general planning purposes, but they are not adequate for local scale decision making. We are pleased that CPW will work with AGNC counties to refine the habitat maps.”
The consulting firm selected to conduct the research and refine the habitat mapping is Olsson Associates, which has an office in Grand Junction.
The firm has been involved in Greater Sage Grouse mapping projects in Northwest Colorado and will research and map the habitat based on each of the six distinct populations in the region.