Chico Basin Ranch named CPW Statewide Partner of the Year

Outdoors - Colorado Parks Wildlife Mountains Baca National Wildlife Refuge - USFWS
Published Sunday, April 28, 2019
by Bill Vogrin

The Chico Basin Ranch has been honored with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Statewide Partners in the Outdoors Award for 2019.

The award was announced at the annual Partners in the Outdoors conference this week in Breckenridge. The ranch was nominated by CPW's Paul Foutz, native aquatic species biologist, and Ed Schmal, conservation biologist, both in the Southeast Region. Accepting the award were Tess Leach and her brother Duke Phillips, managers of the ranch.

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PICT Chico Basin Ranch Partner of the Year - CPW
Tess Leach and her brother Duke Phillips, second and third from left, manage Chico Basin Ranch and were honored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as Statewide Partners in the Outdoors for 2019. They were joined on stage at the Partners in the Outdoors conference by Dan Prenzlow, left, CPW Southeast Region manager, ranch manager-in-training Jake Meldon, Samantha Bradford, ranch education coordinator, and CPW's Paul Foutz, native aquatic species biologist, at far right. Courtesy CPW.

The Chico Basin Ranch is an 87,000-acre, family-run cattle ranch 30 miles southeast of Colorado Springs. It is owned by the Colorado State Land Board. Besides raising cattle, the Chico hosts education, farming, recreation, sporting, arts and hospitality programs.

In their nomination, Foutz and Schmal praised the ranch owners and managers for years of partnering with CPW "as we work on wildlife habitat improvement, land management, outdoor education, wildlife conservation and youth outreach, among other endeavors."

"Chico Basin Ranch is managed in a way that exemplifies holistic land management and partnership, and that is driven by the Phillips family's stewardship ethic and their drive to make visions a reality," Foutz and Schmal said.  

Most notably, the Phillips support CPW efforts to conserve and enhance diverse wildlife habitat on the ranch, including efforts to restore and improve wetlands and riparian habitat.

The nomination praised the collaboration for aiding management of the Arkansas darter, a state threatened species and subject of intense conservation and recovery efforts. The ranch has helped CPW conserve current populations and habitat, as well as work to establish new Arkansas darter populations in the Chico Creek drainage.

The Phillips also support CPW education and outreach programs through a multitude of outdoor education programs which are either led by the ranch or done cooperatively with CPW or other natural resource groups.

The CPW partnership with Chico is valued throughout the agency.

"This kind of work takes intense dedication," said Dan Prenzlow, CPW's Southeast Region manager. "In addition to sizeable financial contributions to the projects, family members and ranch staff put large amounts of sweat equity into these properties and projects. Without their unwavering commitment to wildlife conservation and land health, many projects would not be successful."

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