Date: 11/20/20 1:26 pm
From: <hiker......> <hikerhodges...>
Subject: [cobirds] The future of birding at Chico Basin Ranch, El Paso/Pueblo Counties


Fellow birders,

The future of birding at Chico Basin Ranch remains unclear.

The State Land Board staff (SLB) announced, in their November board packet,
that public access to Chico Basin Ranch would not be allowed once the
current lease expires in 2024.

With that in mind, the commissioners voted last week to allow Aiken Audubon
and/or other organizations to hold (purchase) a "layered lease" on Chico,
which would offer access to birders on specific dates. The cost would be
negotiated, and liability insurance would be required. Current leases on
another SLB-owned ranch, with only 3 or 4 annual visits, range from $2500
to $5000.

Bird-banding would require a separate lease, though the SLB may not charge
for that lease as it provides scientific data. The Phillips family (lessee)
currently pays the annual $7200 banding fee to Bird Conservancy of the
Rockies, which would need to be covered by other organizations in the
future.

Aiken Audubon is looking into the possibility of holding a layered lease.
While the cost and logistical challenges of such a lease are still unknown,
we are cautiously optimistic that, with partners, birding can continue on
the ranch.

Discussions on whether Chico will be divided into separate parcels or kept
intact will begin in January. Aiken will once again be asking birders to
come out in numbers to comment in favor of keeping the ranch as one parcel,
with one manager. We believe this would best protect the ranch’s
conservation values as well as limit habitat fragmentation, one of
wildlife’s greatest concerns.

Linda Hodges
Conservation Chair

Aiken Audubon Society



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