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The Central Colorado Conservancy recently made progress on a collaborative restoration project at Sands Lake State Wildlife area near Salida. Since the area’s inception is 2018 with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the recent impacts of the project include removing invasive species, planting native trees, shrubs flowers and grasses, fence and trail repair, erosion reduction on riverbanks and tree protection from beavers.

Due to many work and collaborative restrictions caused by COVID-19, these impacts have been a large win according to the Conservancy. The lake and trails at Sands Lake are enjoyed by an estimated 7,000-10,000 people every year which makes the area one of the most visited outdoor places in Salida. Visitors enjoy the area for fishing, birding, wildlife watching and walking. This echoes the importance of this project.

Sands Lake State Wildlife Area. Picture by Linda Erickson. Courtesy of Facebook.

“Sands Lake is a local hot spot for both wildlife and people,” said Conservancy Watershed Restoration Specialist, Buffy Lenth. “It’s been rewarding, especially during the pandemic, to see all of the progress we have made working safely with Habitat for Humanity volunteers and youth crews to enhance wildlife habitat at Sands Lake and build its resilience to the very high visitor use it experiences. Let’s all hope that we can entice a pair of osprey to nest out on the island next year and add to the great watchable wildlife opportunities at Sands Lake.”

Working to restore the local Osprey habitat has been the main focus of 2020 for the project. Lenth and her team worked with a Southwest Conservations Corps youth crew for a week in June and week in September where they accomplished several tasks that will enhance wildlife habitat.

One task was installing an Osprey nesting platform on the island at Sand Lake. The team used a power pole donated by Sangre de Cristo Electric and worked with a local Habitat for Humanity group of volunteers to build the platform.

To complete this task the team borrowed a boat from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to transport the pole, eight bags of quick concrete, nesting platform, crew members and volunteers to the island. Team members says they are happy with the work and feel the nesting platform looks inviting for the Osprey.

“The work the Conservancy has led at Sands Lake is not only about a positive wildlife habitat restoration project at a State Wildlife Area,” said Conservancy Executive Director, Adam Beh. “It also serves as an opportunity to help a local conservancy deliver community education and outreach stories on wetland conservation matters, and doing so in a public area so close to town that it serves a large percentage of this community. In addition to continued collaboration with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, we are also thrilled to have implemented this project with our new state partner, Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE). Without funding from CDPHE, this project would not have had the needed momentum for completion. We look forward to continued partnership on collaborative conservation efforts here at home.”

Logo Courtesy of Central Colorado Conservancy

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and local health regulations, the Conservancy was unable to host their normal member volunteer work days at Sands Lake. These volunteer days help propel this progress but this has yet to stop them from making much-needed impacts to the area in 2020.

The team that did the work followed strict COVID-19 guidelines including social distancing and mask wearing. Their recent progress was made possible through partnering with the Southwest Conservation Corps work crews and local Habitat for Humanity Volunteers.

“The Sands Lake Project is great example of how to develop and implement a conservation/restoration project successfully: with great leadership, professional collaboration, and community participation,” said Chaffee County Noxious Weed Program Supervisor, Kayla Malone. “I look forward to seeing the area grow, mature and bloom to support an even greater range of wildlife in the future.”

In the spring of 2021, the Conservancy hopes to continue their stewardship activities at Sands Lake with the dedicated volunteers who helped with this project over the years. Contact the Conservancy via their website or email at buffy@centralcoloradoconservancy.org with any questions or to support the project. For more information click here or call 719-539-7700.