Peak to Prairie by Colorado Open Lands

The Peak to Prairie Project is a large-scale conservation initiative focusing on key resources in El Paso, Pueblo, Lincoln and Crowley Counties. Through a landowner initiated effort, Colorado Open Lands has protected 2,430 acres through 11 conservation easements to date.

The project involves many partners and stretches from Cheyenne Mountain in the west to the western half of Lincoln and Crowley Counties in the east, from the City of Colorado Springs in the north to the City of Pueblo and the Arkansas River in the south. The project covers over 2.1 million acres of prairie, creek, mountain and plains.

Colorado Open Lands and The Nature Conservancy are proud to present the results of the Peak to Prairie Planning Grant, funded by the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund Board. The results of the Planning Grant are documented in the Peak to Prairie Conservation Plan, which describes the planning process, partners, and resources, along with implementation strategies.

Significance

Within this region are valuable resources such as working agricultural operations, scenic vistas, threatened wildlife habitat, intact prairie ecosystems, military assets, and open space.

The goal of the project is to preserve and protect these resources by knitting together and protecting public and private lands. The resulting landscape will be a relatively intact landscape in one of the last remaining stretches of unfragmented land along Colorado’s Front Range.

  • This regional effort will benefit the local economy, preserve working ranches and critical habitat, and provide a previously missing link in Colorado States Parks’ Front Range Trail project.
  • The heart of the project is the Fountain Creek Corridor. The Fountain Creek supports some of the last large agricultural operations along the Front Range.
  • Fountain Creek is currently at the center of a new diverse group, Fountain Creek Vision Task Force whose mission is implementing the revitalization of the Fountain Creek watershed.
  • The prairie landscape east and west of the corridor provides sandsage and shortgrass prairie habitat for a diverse mixture of species, including golden eagle, prairie falcon, swift fox, coyote, black-tail prairie dog, and pronghorn antelope. Imperiled grassland birds, such as the mountain plover, also depend on this habitat as they migrate through the Great Plains.

Threats and Impacts

The Peak to Prairie project area has diverse threats to its appearance, agricultural heritage, and open space. Significant impacts of rapid growth include:

  • Conversion of agricultural lands to other uses;
  • Concentrated utility and transportation needs along Fountain Creek corridor,
  • Loss of wildlife habitat;
  • Fragmentation of open spaces;
  • Changing character of the area;
  • Loss of community buffers; and
  • Threatened military mission due to encroachment of base fences.

There is still time to protect large areas like the Peak to Prairie project area at a reasonable cost, before these lands are converted to other uses and their unique agricultural, natural, scenic, and open space values are lost forever.

What Colorado Open Lands and Its Partners are Doing

Powerful partners including Colorado Open Lands, The Nature Conservancy, Colorado State Parks, El Paso and Pueblo Counties, Colorado Springs Utilities, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and most significantly the U.S. Department of Defense are working together to secure the necessary funding sources to complete this project.

Ft. Carson Military base has a two-fold goal of protecting its boundaries from encroachment by residential development while preserving important habitat for plants and animals that depend on the prairie landscape.

  • The Department of Defense helped launch this project in 2005 by providing funding to purchase conservation easements on land adjacent to Ft Carson. These dollars will serve as a springboard to leverage grant monies and other privately raised funds.
  • Most recently, Senator Salazar has become enthusiastic about the possibilities for recreation along the Fountain Creek and actively supports the partners’ efforts to preserve this landscape before it is too late.
  • To date, five properties representing over 6,000 acres of land have been protected with conservation easements within the project area. One of the properties, the historic Venetucci Farm, south of Colorado Springs, will be a working farm forever providing recreational and agricultural opportunities for members of the community.
  • The Nature Conservancy will protect another 2,000 acres this year along Ft. Carson’s southern boundary and Colorado Open Lands is in negotiation to protect 800 acres of a key agricultural property on Fountain Creek.

Partners

This list represent our financial partners in the project, there are many more stakeholders participating in Peak to Prairie’s work.

  • El Paso & Pueblo Counties
  • Department of Defense
  • Great Outdoors Colorado
  • USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • The Nature Conservancy

How You Can Help

Your support is critical to our ongoing success in helping willing Colorado landowners preserve and protect the great natural, cultural, and working landscapes of Colorado. You can help support this project and Colorado Open Lands’ ongoing efforts by:

  • Making an online donation
  • Sending your donation to:

Colorado Open Lands
274 Union Boulevard, Suite 320
Lakewood, CO 80228
303.988.2373

  • Funding or donating items listed on our Wish List! To accomplish our mission of land preservation, it is necessary to have the right tools. By donating either the item or the money necessary to purchase any of the items, you help ensure our ongoing effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Consider putting a conservation easement on your land.

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