Trails projects across the state received a $5.8 million boost from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, which voted to approve 65 grants for motorized and non-motorized trail projects to be completed in 2012 and 2013 at its monthly meeting Thursday at the Pueblo Union Depot.
Commissioners awarded $4 million to 28 motorized trail projects and for 17 Good Management trail crews for the 2013 construction season. Top-rated projects this year include a U.S. Forest Service effort to complete trail reroutes and upgrades called for by the Rampart Recreation Area's 2005 travel management plan, a proposal by the Western Slope ATV Association for ongoing trail maintenance and improvements on the Grand Mesa and a request by the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition for funding to support a workshop to educate trail users about stewardship issues and working with land managers.
Overall, 36 percent of the funding will go to trail maintenance and restoration, 33 percent for planning and travel management plan implementation, 17 percent for equipment, signage and materials, and 14 percent for enforcement and visitor contacts.
Commissioners voted to delay by one month a decision on a $104,500 proposed award to support an environmental study of a single track motorcycle trail from Basalt to Gypsum submitted by the White River National Forest. Commissioners noted that the area is important big game habitat and requested that trails staff coordinate with wildlife managers to assess wildlife impact internally prior to supporting an outside study.
Commissioners also awarded $1.964 million in grant funding for 18 top-scoring non-motorized trail grant project applications submitted by local governments, nonprofits and federal agencies. The non-motorized grants will support projects for the 2012 construction season.
Colorado's OHV Trails Program is funded by the sale of Off Highway Vehicle registrations and use permits. Over 160,000 OHVs were registered or permitted for use in Colorado during the 2010-2011 season. A grant review committee made up of agency staff and outside reviewers representing a full spectrum of trail recreation interests scores the applications, which are due each December.
Commissioners also approved a request by CPW staff to formalize support for the OHV Good Management Program, which prioritizes funding for experienced trail crews who have demonstrated they can consistently meet the fiscal and field objectives in grant proposals. Good Management crews are deployed primarily for trail maintenance, facility support and restoration of resource damage.
In addition, the Commission voted to approve $1.621 million in grants for 40 non-motorized trail grant project applications submitted by local governments, nonprofits and federal agencies.
Non-motorized trail projects recommended for approval include a proposal to extend the Colorado Riverfront Trail in Fruita, a five-trail maintenance and reroute project along the Front Range and the Regional Fourteener Trail Maintenance Project, which will tackle 34 miles of high-priority rebuilding and rerouting projects on some of Colorado's most beloved high-elevation hiking routes.
The Colorado State Recreational Trails Grant Program, which funds non-motorized trail projects, is a partnership among Colorado's state parks, Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Lottery, the federal Recreational Trails Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In other business, commissioners approved adding the East Lost Park area and the Hoosier Ridge area to the Colorado Natural Areas Program. Both are located within the Pike National Forest in Park County.
The 6,300-acre East Lost Park designation protects the largest population of Porter feathergrass, a rare plant found only in South Park. East Lost Park is part of the Lost Creek Wilderness Area. The 373-acre Hoosier Ridge area has long been recognized as one of the most diverse botanical sites in all of Colorado. Alpine soils enriched by limestone outcrops support 16 species of rare plants and seven different alpine plant communities.
Since 1997, the Colorado Natural Areas Program has identified more than 150 rare, threatened or endangered species and plant communities at 93 sites across Colorado. CNAP works with willing landowners to conserve ecosystems, species, geology and fossils that represent unique resources in Colorado.
During the meeting, three Colorado Parks and Wildlife employees were recognized for outstanding achievements in support of natural resource conservation.
Brian Kurzel, the Colorado Natural Areas Program manager, was recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March for his work to conserve imperiled plants native to Colorado. Kurzel, along with three other Colorado recipients, was awarded a 2011 Recovery Champion Award for their efforts to recover the 15 federally threatened and endangered plant species in Colorado. The Fish and Wildlife Service singled out the development of the Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Strategy, which will enable partners to proactively and systematically advance plant conservation in Colorado.
Also in March, Jonathan Reitz, Colorado Parks and Wildlife's biologist in Lamar, was recognized by the U.S. Forest Service with a 2012 Wings Across America award for his research and habitat management work in and around the Cimarron and Comanche National Grassland in southeastern Colorado. The award was presented by John Peterson, Deputy Forest Supervisor on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest, Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands.
Reitz, who was previously a District Wildlife Manager in Springfield, was an integral part of a team honored for their lesser prairie-chicken research and habitat management on federal and private land. The Wings Across America award celebrates excellence in migratory bird, bat and butterfly conservation.
Bob Thompson was recognized by Director Rick Cables as the 2011 John D. Hart Award as the wildlife officer of the year. Named for the legendary Colorado wildlife officer who rose from game warden to Assistant Director during the first half of the 20th Century, the John D. Hart Award is the most prestigious award given to Colorado wildlife officers. The award is given to officers who are judged by their peers who have made outstanding accomplishments to wildlife law enforcement in Colorado and service to the agency.
In addition, Pueblo State Park Ranger Joe Stadterman was recognized for his being named Colorado Boating Officer of the Year. A graduate of U.S. Coast Guard Marine Patrol officers' course, Stadterman is a CPW Boating Safety Instructor and patrols 4,500-acre Lake Pueblo, which saw 40,000 boaters in 2011.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is a 14-member board appointed by the governor that sets regulations and policies for Colorado’s state parks wildlife programs. The commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. The May meeting will be held in Grand Junction. For the remainder of 2012, the Commission will travel to Craig, Sterling, Gunnison, Glenwood Springs, Durango, Yuma and Colorado Springs.
To view the complete agenda for the April Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting, please go to the Commission web page at: