In 1990, the Colorado Division of Wildlife created a program entitled the Habitat Partnership Program (HPP), the initial purpose of which was to deal with fence and forage issues with deer, elk, pronghorn and moose.
In 2002, the program was expanded to resolve wildlife conflicts, particularly those associated with fence and forage, and to aid the agency in achieving game management objectives. Since that time, 19 local committees have been formed to administer funds and projects for the program, which Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) continues to this day.
The San Luis Valley (SLV HPP) Committee was formed in 1994 and approved by the Wildlife Commission in 1995. Originally the SLV committee was responsible for the entire San Luis Valley. In 1998, the Mount Blanca Committee was formed to deal with issues along the eastern side of the Valley — approximately 2,750 square miles — leaving the western portion under the jurisdiction of the SLV committee — approximately 4,800 square miles.
Membership on SLV HPP committee is composed of three livestock growers, one sportsperson, and one each from Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), CPW and US Fish and Wildlife (USFW). Funding for the HPP program is derived from 5% of the license fees sold for pronghorn, deer, elk and moose within the committee boundary.
While early projects dealt with fence and forage, over the years the emphasis has changed allowing for a wide range of activities to aid in reducing conflicts between deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and agriculture and additionally allowing for aiding CPW to manage the wildlife in the local area.
Some of the more common activities engaged in by the SLV HPP committee are: aiding in transaction costs for conservation easements, closing illegal roads, fence construction or repair, hiring hunt coordinators to accompany hunters into private lands, water developments which have benefited both livestock and wildlife (including drilling wells, solar pumping systems, water delivery systems, pond cleaning and sealing), habitat manipulation (including hydro-axe, hand thinning and manipulation, and controlled burns), and working with CPW in arriving at various big game population objectives.
Many of the projects have been designed to keep big game animals on the public lands as much as possible.
Project proposals are submitted to the committee and, if approved, funded by an assortment of partners including USFS, BLM, NRCS, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Wild Turkey Federation, CPW, USFW, State Land Board, private land owners and permittees, private citizens, GOCO, RiGHT, Colorado Cattlemen’s Assoc., Grazing Associations and HPP.
The SLV committee has established a guideline that they will not pay more than half of the cost of a project in most cases, however the balance of the project costs can come from any of the partners in that particular project, but it is expected that the owner or permittee will participate in the costs of the project.
Having kept records of project participation since 2002, the SLV HPP committee has utilized $2,060,727 of HPP funds to participate in projects totaling $65,296,155.
Since 2007 there have been 11,875 donated hours to the projects. The vast majority of funds for these projects came from outside the local area but were spent locally. The projects have greatly aided local agricultural producers to secure funding for needed projects as well as enhancing conditions for local big game.
The San Luis Valley Committee will have a sportsperson vacancy and is seeking a volunteer beginning on July 1. The position requires attendance at meetings — usually 4-5 per year — either in person or virtually.
A person interested in the position should have knowledge of much of the western portion of the Valley, purchase a big game hunting license on a regular basis, and be willing to aid in securing projects and, at times, funding.
If you are interested in applying for the position you can contact Hanna Cook, the administrative assistant for the committee at [email protected] or by phone at 719-227-5221.
A letter expressing interest in the position and listing qualifications needs to be received by May 15, as the committee needs to select who they want the wildlife commission to consider for approval of their appointment to the committee, all of which takes time.
HPP information as well as specific SLV HPP committee information can be found on CPW’s website, http://cpw.state.co.us/hpp.