SOUTHERN COLORADO — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is reporting heavy damage to State Wildlife Areas (SWA) in the wake of five fast-moving fires on Tuesday, including habitat for a threatened species.
In a string of tweets on their Southeast Region account, CPW pinpointed three wildlife areas in Bent and Otero counties that have suffered damage: Oxbow, Fort Lyon, John Martin Reservoir and Keller State Trust Land.
CPW said Oxbow SWA was first to burn. Flames engulfed the river bottom and spread, burning 75% of its 410 acres. Three sheds were destroyed and several pieces of equipment were damaged. Due to extensive tree-fall danger, Oxbow is closed indefinitely.
The fire in the river bottom moved into the west end of the 19,471-acre John Martin Reservoir SWA. It quickly spread into Fort Lyon SWA and Keller State Trust Land where fire crews stopped it at the railroad tracks.
The worst of the damage hit Fort Lyon SWA, with extensive damage to 80% of its 523 acres including wetlands known as habitat for threatened Eastern Black Rail Habitat. Todd Marriott, CPW wildlife manager, hopes the wetlands will recover for the marsh-dwelling Black Rail nesting season which starts in mid May.
CPW says the fires on wildlife areas are contained and being monitored for hot spots. CPW staff will begin assessing damage and the risk of tree fall before heavy equipment is brought in to begin cleanup.
Wildlife areas will reopen once they are deemed safe.