September 2022:

Changes Coming to Chico Basin Ranch

If you’ve had the opportunity to bird on the 87,000-acre ranch on the eastern plains (El Paso and Pueblo counties) known as Chico Basin Ranch, you won’t be surprised that over 350 bird species have been recorded on the property. This is only one reason why Chico is a unique property. The land itself is part of a diminishing shortgrass prairie ecosystem.

Owned by the State Land Board, and leased to Ranchlands, the ranch will be going through some changes when the current lease expires at the end of 2024. Beginning in 2025, Aiken Audubon and/or other birding organizations will have to hold what is called a “layered lease”, which comes with various fees, responsibilities and limitations. The “open gate” policy that the Phillips family has allowed us will come to an end.

Aiken Audubon is currently in talks with the State Land Board as well as Denver Field Ornithologists, Colorado Field Ornithologists and Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. We do not yet know what the future of Chico looks like, or whether bird banding will continue, but we hope that access will continue at least during migration seasons.

We will keep you apprised as talks continue. Meanwhile, enjoy the next two years of free rein.

Photo: Horned Lark / Bill Maynard.