Colorado Parks and Wildlife to honor 2013 Landowners of the Year

Greater sage-grouse via Idaho Fish and Game
Greater sage-grouse via Idaho Fish and Game

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will honor two winners as Landowners of the Year for 2013 before the Pro Rodeo at the National Western Stock Show on Thursday, Jan. 23. The 2013 Landowners of the Year are Bord Gulch Ranch Manager Ray Owens and Turkey Creek Ranch owners Gary and Georgia Walker.

Owens manages the sprawling 15,000+ acre Bord Gulch Ranch in northwest Colorado’s Moffat County. The ranch is prime habitat for greater sage-grouse and mule deer, winters thousands of elk, and is a year-round home to dozens of other species. Owens works closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife conservation groups to manage the traditional ranching property in a way that benefits the area’s native wildlife.

Gary and Georgia Walker’s approximately 65,000 acre Turkey Creek Ranch property is prime short grass prairie and agricultural riparian lands west of Pueblo. The Walkers have managed the property as successful ranchers and as stewards of the native wildlife for more than 50 years. In late 2013, they became the first private landowners in the state to release black-footed ferrets onto their private property under a safe-harbor agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Black-footed ferrets were once dubbed “the most endangered animal in North America,” and remain incredibly rare in the wild.

“Ray Owens and the Walkers are proof that private landowners can do amazing things for wildlife in ways that government cannot,” said Bob Broscheid, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We are pleased to join them at the National Western Stockshow and honor their efforts and the efforts of all the private landowners in the state.”

Colorado is known by sportsmen around the world for its 23 million acres of public lands, but four of every 10 acres in the state are privately owned. Private lands are critical to maintaining populations of mule deer, pronghorn, elk, sage-grouse, prairie falcons and a host of grassland species. Privately held water rights, held in reservoirs and released into streams, supports both warm- and cold-water sport fishing across the state.

The Wildlife Landowner of the Year Award is part of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Landowner Recognition Program, which has worked to highlight exemplary land management practices and recognize landowners who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in wildlife conservation since 1982.

Nominees for Landowner of the Year must be residents of Colorado or own at least 160 acres in the state, and be actively engaged in farming or ranching business as owners, lessors, lessees, or managers. Evaluations are based on a range of criteria, including current land management practices, wildlife habitat improvements, accommodations for public hunting and fishing access and leadership in the promotion of sound wildlife practices on private lands.

“Farming and ranching families have a connection to the land,” said Ken Morgan, Private Lands Program Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “They know that sound soil, water and vegetation management practices benefit their agricultural operations and also benefit wildlife. The health of the land is not an abstract concept to them and that’s worth celebrating.”

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