Network Stats

  • 146
  • 33
  • 4,994
  • 391
  • 7,216
  • 10
  • 1,252
  • 3


The Pawnee is comprised of over 190,000 acres of land is located in northern Colorado, near the small town of Briggsdale, flanked by the two towering Pawnee Buttes rising more than 500 feet above the plains. It is an Important Birding Area. The Important Bird Area (IBA) program is an international effort to identify, conserve, and monitor a network of sites that provide essential habitat for bird populations. BirdLife International began the IBA program in Europe in 1985 (Wells 1:1).

Shortgrass prairie, characterized by blue grama, buffalo grass, and other short to mid-height species, once covered most of Colorado east of the mountain front, at elevations below 6,000 feet. Today, nearly 50% of our historic shortgrass prairie has been converted to tilled agriculture or other uses – the largest loss from any of Colorado’s ecological systems. In the early 1800s the shortgrass prairie was home to massive herds of free-ranging bison and pronghorn, as well as huge prairie dog colonies, deer, elk, and top predators including the gray wolf and grizzly bear. Today, the most conspicuous animal on the prairie is the domestic cow (Rondeau 67:68).

Pronghorn and prairie dogs still inhabit Colorado’s prairies in reduced numbers, and the former top predators have been replaced by coyotes. Large-scale ecological processes such as drought, fire, and grazing by large animals exert strong influences in this ecological system. The short grass species that dominate this ecological system are tolerant of drought and grazing (Rondeau 67:68).

Many of Colorado’s declining animal species are associated with the shortgrass prairie. Grassland bird species constitute one of the fastest declining vertebrate population groups in North America. Birds of conservation concern in the shortgrass prairie include: Burrowing Owl, Ferruginous Hawk, Mountain Plover, McCown’s Longspur, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Cassin’s Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, Prairie Falcon, Wilson’s Phalarope, Plains Sharp-tailed Grouse and Long-billed Curlew (Rondeau 67:68).

Almost all shortgrass prairie is in private ownership. Some very large expanses of native prairie in good condition still exist, thanks to the stewardship of ranching families (Rondeau 67:68).

The continued presence of shortgrass prairie in our state may also be threatened by changing climate. The minimum desired patch size for this ecological system is 50,000 acres. The best occurrences should encompass at least 200,000 acres (Rondeau 67:68).

The Pawnee is owned and managed by the U. S. Forest Service a Federal Agency of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

The climate in this region is arid (rainfall averages between 8 and 17 inches annually) with hot summers, cold winters and persistent strong winds. Three important factors affect the climate of the case study area: continentally, air masses, and mountain barriers (Hazlet 1998, 2:3).

The Pawnee is located in the Great Plains province known as the High Plains and the Colorado Piedmont (Hazlett 3:4). Most of the soils on the Pawnee are shallow to deep loams that are well drained. Open steppe is the most common habitat on the Pawnee. There are small and scattered patches of sandy soil. The riparian areas with the most perennial water are Coal Creek, Willow Creek, South Pawnee Creek, Little Crow Creek and its tributaries, Two Mile Creek and Lone Tree Creek. Areas covered by roads, disturbed areas, pens, and buildings cover less than 5 percent of the study area (Hazlett 3-4).

Soil Order of Pawnee National Grassland The Pawnee is comprised of the following Soil Orders.

Alfisols - form in semiarid to humid areas. They have a clay-enriched subsoil and relatively high native fertility. Because of their productivity and abundance, the Alfisols represent one of the more important soil orders for food and fiber production. They are widely used in agriculture (Wikipedia 2017).

Aridisols (or desert soils) - form in an arid or semi-arid climate. Aridisols have a very low concentration of organic matter, reflecting the paucity of vegetative production on these dry soils. Water deficiency is the major defining characteristic (Wikipedia 2017).

Mollisols - form in semi-arid to semi-humid areas, typically under a grassland cover. They are most commonly found in the mid-latitudes mostly east of the Rocky Mountains. It was estimated that in 2003, only 14 to 26 percent of grassland ecosystems still remained in a relatively natural state (that is, they were not used for agriculture). As the most agriculturally productive soil order, the Mollisols represent one of the more economically important soil orders (Wikipedia 2017).