Provide young adults interested in a career in ecology or the environmental sector a flight over the Piceance Basin. Flight passengers were given an opportunity to view and learn about the consequences of habitat loss and habitat fragmentation in the region.
Many species in the Piceance Basin are experiencing a loss of wildlife habitat. A key concern are mule deer whose populations have plummeted in recent years, largely due to development. Housing, oil & gas exploration, and an overall increase in infrastructure have decreased wildlife habitat and food-sources in the Piceance Basin. Mule deer in the region have suitable high elevation habitat; however, during the winter months, the deer migrate to lower elevations where development has exploded, leaving a lack of wildlife habitat and sage shrublands. Sage is vital food-source for mule deer. Without enough to eat, deer offspring are born at low weights and experience reduced rates of survival. Further, habitat fragmentation from roads, buildings, and other obstructions make it difficult for mule deer to migrate and travel to suitable outdoor spaces.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife must address how infrastructure and oil & gas development are decreasing mule deer habitat and food sources, erasing contiguous wild landscapes, and disrupting crucial migration patterns. Sustainable management is needed to maintain populations and address the specific needs of mule deer.