The San Juan Corridors Coalition is a group of citizens and organizations working to preserve wildlife habitat and corridors in the northwest San Juan Mountains, especially in Montrose and Ouray Counties. We have five main areas of activity: working with the Colorado Department of Wildlife (CDOW) to identify habitat issues and areas in need of protection; educating the public about wildlife and human impact issues; encouraging landowners to consider conservation easements to preserve their land; working with county government to develop land use policies that have a minimal impact on wildlife; and working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to allow safe passage along our highways for wildlife and people.

We began by focusing on the deer vehicle collisions on highway 550 between Montrose and Ridgway but soon realized that this problem was part of a larger issue of wildlife habitat and migration between winter and summer ranges. We have about 45,000 deer in the area that concentrate in the Uncompaghre River Valley along highway 550 during the winter. The collisions are especially heavy during the fall migration down into the Uncompaghre Valley from the San Juan Mountains, the Cimarrons, and the Uncompaghre Plateau. The spring migration when the deer return to higher elevations is the second highest period of collisions. Simultaneously, development of private land is fragmenting the corridors and reducing the habitat for deer and other wildlife. We are trying to study these issues, educate the public, and make recommendations to minimize the impact of growth.

We meet monthly in Montrose at the CDOW. Our group includes representatives of the Colorado Department of Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Western Colorado Congress, Black Canyon Regional Land Trust, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and interested citizens. We network with a wide array of other organizations and have had presentations by the Mule Deer Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, the Uncompaghre Project, Southern Rockies Ecoregion Project, and others.

All of the areas in which we are interested require considerable technical understanding—wildlife, conservation easements, county zoning and land use, and highway construction and maintenance. We try to do our "homework" as well as consulting experts. We do a lot of Web research in order to identify specific approaches that would be useful to us and that would provide precedents of similar projects throughout the U.S. and world. Consequently, when we make recommendations or participate in meetings, we are able to contribute informed suggestions and may be asked to join working groups on specific projects.

Specific initiatives have included:

* Creation of a brochure funded by a grant from RMEF and CDOW; and a web page contributed by Dustin Brunson.

* Organizing a regional workshop on Conservation Easements attended by about 80 landowners, with funds supplied by CDOW from the Habitat Partnership Program.

* Extensive work with CDOT including: (1) $300,000 set aside for road mitigation in our area, resulting in two Variable Message Signs on 550, each equipped with speed radar display, to operate during deer migration seasons; (2) experimental earth-return ramps on 550 at Ridgway State Park, Dutch Charlie entrance; (3) data collection of deer kill from CDOT Region 3, the Montrose County section of 550; (4) with CDOW Bruce Watkins and CDOT personnel, a drive-by examination of potential wildlife crossings on 550 between Montrose and Ridgway; and (5) regular attendance at the meetings of the Gunnison Valley Transportation Planning Region.

* Extensive collaboration with SREP (Southern Rockies Eco-region Project) including: (1) an expert regional workshop to identify key wildlife corridors for a report and recommendations to CDOT for highway mitigation, resulting in 550 being designated as a CDOT priority area for wildlife mitigation; (2) a presentation on SJCC at a Wildlife Crossings Field Course in Payson, AZ.; and (3) a grant to conduct a Conservation Easement Workshop for Real Estate Professionals and to organize a seminar of local CDOT/CDOW personnel to identify specific locations for wildlife crossing on 550 between Montrose and Ridgway.

* Continuous monitoring of county land use planning and decisions with testimony at public hearings when appropriate; efforts so far have been focused on Ouray and Montrose Counties.

* Educational efforts, especially during fall migration, including: (1) radio interviews; (2) distribution of bookmarks and bumper stickers with driving tips and information intended to help drivers avoid or deal with animal/vehicle collisions; (3) newspaper articles and notices; (4) creation of wildlife information packets that can be distributed to landowners, especially new residents in developments; and (5) a "Roads and Critters Activity Program for Kids and Families" presented at Ridgway State Park.

SJCC welcomes citizen participation and is open to anyone who wants to help preserve wildlife habitat and corridors in the northwest San Juan region. There are a wide variety of tasks that need attention and never enough people to do them. To volunteer or for more information, contact Sara Coulter in Ridgway 626-4496 (scoulter@towson.edu) or Shirley Jentsch in Montrose 240-1319 (sjentsch@montrose.net).

Concerned citizens coming together to preserve habitat and corridors surrounding the northwestern San Juan Mountains.

The San Juan Corridors Coalition is dedicated to preserving critical habitat and migration corridors for mule deer and other wildlife by:

Supporting and working with DOW to identify habitat issues and areas in need of protection

Educating the public about wildlife and human impact issues

Encouraging landowners

to consider conservation easements and other measures to protect their land

Working with county government to develop land use policies that have a minimal impact on wildlife

Working with CDOT to allow safe passage for wildlife and people