The Nature Conservancy Colorado Grasslands 10-3-11

Oct 3, 2011

EcoFlight flew with the Nature Conservancy over the Picketwire (Purgatoire) Canyonlands, on the Comanche National Grasslands south of La Junta, a spectacular area of rimrock, canyons, junipers, cactus, grasses and cottonwoods.

Our flight took us over the northern edge of the largest functionally intact area of prairie in Colorado, following the Smith Creek Drainage and the extensive canyon systems of the Purgatoire River and its tributaries. The area supports rare plant species, a variety of wildlife including deer, antelope and coyote and the greatest diversity of reptile and amphibian species in Colorado. The primitive canyons are also home to the largest known set of dinosaur tracks in North America.150 million years ago, the area was part of a large, shallow lake and was teaming with Brontosaurs and Allosaurs, whose preserved footprints, extending on a quarter mile plain, are exposed at the Picketwire Canyonlands dinosaur track site.

According to research conducted by Nature Conservancy scientists, grasslands and prairies are the world's most imperiled ecosystems. Only five percent of grasslands are protected globally and are greatly threatened by the spread of tamarisk and other invasive species, the suppression of natural fire and the fragmentation and urbanization of grassland habitat.

The Nature Conservancy is working to preserve these crucial habitats using science, partnerships, land management and restoration.