The shortgrass prairies of eastern Colorado have been an important component in our State's agricultural productivity, ecological diversity, and unique character for more than 150 years. Early settlers of this region found a vast sea of productive grasslands suitable for raising livestock and a vast array of wildlife species ranging from black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus
) and mountain plover (Charadrius montanus
), to herds of American bison (Bison bison
), elk (Cervus elaphus
), deer (Odocoileus spp
.), and Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana
Although livestock production remains high throughout much of the region, much has changed within the last century. Conversion of native grasslands to agricultural cropland and urban development has altered the look and character of the shortgrass prairie region. This alteration and fragmentation of the landscape has changed the level of wildlife diversity the vast landscape once supported. Concern has grown
over the past several years for the long-term sustainability, diversity, and integrity of many components of the shortgrass prairie grassland ecosystem as a whole.
In June 2002, Colorado Division of Wildlife Director, Russell George, appointed a working group charged with developing a draft grassland species, conservation plan for black-tailed prairie dog and associated species including mountain plover, burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, and swift fox. The Conservation Plan for Grassland Species
, which the working group developed, offers objectives and actions for the conservation of black-tailed prairie dogs and associated shortgrass prairie species in Colorado. It focuses on high quality science, the development of partnerships, voluntary non-regulatory incentives, and uses an adaptive management approach which includes a continuous process of planning, acting, monitoring and evaluating designed to take into account changes in ecological and social systems, to identify and evaluate new information, and to make adjustments in actions to achieve specific goals and objectives.