Colorado partnership a win-win for livestock and sage grouse
February 3, 2015
Projects like this water delivery design with Jay Yust help both ranchers and wildlife thrive on the Colorado range.
In the magnificent Blue River Valley in high-country Colorado, a large tractor tire is plumped to hold water. The water that pours out of the pipe to feed the tire means two things: this rugged landscape is now more viable for livestock, and the Greater Sage Grouse now have a better chance of surviving on their historic range.
The Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory–in partnership with the Sage Grouse Initiative, Middle Park Habitat Partnership Program and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–are working with fifth-generation rancher Jay Yust to enhance his ranch for grouse and other wildlife. By implementing water delivery projects, the ranch has more options for grazing rotations that keep cattle off
occupied Greater Sage-Grouse habitat during certain times of year.
The Yust Ranch hosts an active Greater Sage-Grouse lek and encompasses a large, undeveloped portion of the south end of Middle Park in Grand County. Middle Park is home to the third-largest Greater Sage-Grouse population in Colorado. However, booming ski-oriented developments are carving up native habitat, making voluntary projects like this one even more critical for conserving grouse habitat on private lands.
Future plans for projects on the Yust ranch include replacing old fencing with wildlife-friendly designs, improving water delivery for grass hay production, and developing a grazing management plan that will provide necessary forage for livestock while maintaining quality sage-grouse habitat.