Location: Pawnee National Grassland is located in northeastern Colorado, near the town of Briggsdale.

Vegetative/natural features: This shortgrass prairie ecosystem is bordered on the north by the High Plains (500 feet higher) with a transition zone between known as the Chalk Bluffs. Within the shortgrass prairie are the Pawnee Buttes, two 500-foot remnants of the High Plains. The Colorado Native Plant Society has identified several plant communities at the site worthy of special study.

Historic features: The federal government created the Pawnee Grassland during the 1930s Dust Bowl to reclaim land that had been inappropriately farmed. There are numerous pre-historical and historical sites in the area, on both public and private land.

Ownership: Federal (U.S. Forest Service)

Ornithological Summary

This is one of the main breeding grounds in the world for Mountain Plovers. The Chalk Bluffs area is habitat for many raptor species.

Research and educational activities:
The University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service have conducted research at the site for many years.

Breeding Species - Average#/ Maximum #:
Burrowing Owl - 50
Mountain Plover - 1500/1500
Ferruginous Hawk - /6-50
American White Pelican - 100
Brewer's Sparrow
Baird's Sparrow
Swainson's Hawk - 60+
American Avocet
Northern Harrier - 100
Prairie Falcon
McCown's Longspur - >3000
Cassin's Sparrow
Lark Bunting - >5000

Migrant Species - Average #/ Maximum #
Sandhill Crane - 1000 (spring)
Long-billed Curlew - 20 (spring)
Swainson's Hawk - >400 (fall)
raptors - >1000 (fall)
shorebirds - >750 (spring)
waterfowl - >2000 (fall)

Wintering Species - Average#/ Maximum#
Ferruginous Hawk - /2-10

Conservation Issues

Serious threats: Predators (swift fox on Mountain Plover), Disturbance to birds (the causes of decline of Mountain Plover and other grassland species is unknown).

Minor threats: Development, Impact from increasing recreation.

One of the most pressing conservation issues is fragmentation due to roads. Most of the land around this IBA is ranchland.

Sources of ongoing weed introductions, particularly at crow Valley campground, are horseback riders and cattle operators that provide weed-bearing hay to their animals, and social trails created by birdwatchers and other people. Russian olive and Canada thistle have been problematic.

A more complicated issue is that of meso predator effects on nesting grassland birds. At least two studies show that the main cause of nesting failure among grassland birds is predation by canids and skunks. In areas burned to improve habitat for the mountain plover, the swift fox has been a significant nest predator.

Target shooters have left behind many shells and bullets, which are unsightly at least, but may be sources of lead contamination in some areas. Both target shooting and the number of for-profit birdwatching tours have recently increased significantly, but their impacts remain unknown. Another concern is the number of birds and other animals killed by cars. There is some concern about the noise made by petroleum-powered generators that run the remote pumps.

Efforts to address threats: Land managers at PNG have mapped areas that they would like to incorporate. As of 2003, four land exchanges were under negotiation.

Management details: The ownership pattern in the Pawnee Grassland is checkered ? private and public. The public land is managed under the U.S. Forest Service?s "multiple-use" concept, while surrounding private land is grazed and farmed for wheat, corn, alfalfa, beans, and sunflowers. There are two Colorado Watchable Wildlife sites within the Grassland.

Ownership

The University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service have conducted research at the site for many years.

Habitat

This shortgrass prairie ecosystem is bordered on the north by the High Plains (500 feet higher) with a transition zone between known as the Chalk Bluffs. Within the shortgrass prairie are the Pawnee Buttes, two 500-foot remnants of the High Plains. The Colorado Native Plant Society has identified several plant communities at the site worthy of special study.

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