This week we were surprised to learn that the State Land Board will be voting on the future of Chico Basin Ranch at their upcoming meeting, Weds August 12th and we are asking you to provide comments to the State Land Board by NOON this Tuesday, August 11th. Chico Basin Ranch is one of the premier birding destinations in the state and is a valuable component of the shortgrass prairie ecosystem.
The State Land Board (SLB), which owns the 87,000-acre Chico Basin Ranch (El Paso and Pueblo Counties), has been considering its options when the lease expires in 2024. These include 1) selling the ranch, 2) holding the ranch, 3) dividing it into 3 parcels, or 4) dividing it into 3 parcels and selling one. While Land Board staff is recommending holding the ranch, it also appears that they’d like to split it into 3 separate parcels, to be leased individually.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are two of the greatest threats to wildlife populations. Division or sale of the ranch would likely prove detrimental to the wildlife and plant communities found on the ranch. 345 bird species have been documented at Chico, which may make it the largest birding hotspot in the state.
Aiken Audubon (Colorado Springs) has been following this issue, and collaborating with a group of organizations to send the message that we believe the ranch should be kept intact. The land has very high conservation values according to the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, as well as wide, contiguous swaths of the threatened shortgrass prairie. Shortgrass prairie supports 52 species designated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently stated, grassland birds have declined in numbers by 53% since 1970, with nearly 75% of all grassland species in decline.
If you care about Chico Basin Ranch, birds or wildlife, please write to the State Land Board by NOON this Tuesday, August 11th. You may comment via their website: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdHLoANsTkJyomSRsPJm5aNH5EA-2sA8h7RlM8Df_ESURzjSQ/viewform
In addition, please consider attending the virtual meeting Wednesday August 12, 8:00 am – 2:30 pm. You may also make real-time comments during the meeting using the Q&A feature in Zoom. The Board President will review your comments in real-time and invite you to speak if needed. The Board Packet includes details about the proposal and can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pgsT9COM-SRV8AaMv_i7hcqx8CXOE9X0/view
To attend the meeting virtually, register using the Zoom link:
A copy of Aiken Audubon’s letter to the SLB can be found on our website here. This letter is also signed by Audubon Rockies, the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, CFO, DFO, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, the Colorado Native Plant Society, Colorado College and CSU faculty, and all Colorado Audubon chapters, among others.
Please help us take a stand by asking the SLB to keep Chico Basin Ranch as one, intact parcel.