At the North American Nature Photographers Association Summit in Denver during February of 2006, John Martin shared a brilliant concept: Landowners could supplement their ranch or farm income by hosting wildlife photographers. This encourages the landowners to conserve wildlife they might otherwise eliminate. And wildlife photographers have a chance to pay a fee to access land to photograph species that are hard to find elsewhere. Martin added another piece: Use photo contests, from small amateur contests to high-stakes professional ones, to stimulate interest and publicity. I think the man is a genius. This is a WIN-WIN-WIN for landowners, wildlife and wildlife photographers.
In June 2006 Cathy Illg was awarded 3rd prize in the Texas Hill Country Images for Conservation Fund contest. I attended the awards ceremony at John's suggestion, while I was down in Texas learning more about the contests and ranches. I invited Cathy to be on the "Board" of what I, at that time, envisioned as being an organization to run wildlife photo contests. She accepted.
Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
As I talked with people from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Audubon, etc., I realized recruiting landowners and developing blinds was the first step. It could be as far as I'll get in the foreseeable future. Cathy agreed that was appropriate. Ken Morgan from the Division of Wildlife put me in touch with the committee developing the Colorado Birding Trail. It includes representatives from Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado State Parks, Audubon Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, Colorado Field Ornithologists, Cry Baby Design, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, and some publicity people, as well as representatives from rural counties.
The Birding Trail Committee very kindly accepted the idea of encouraging landowners to host photographers as a legitimate part of what they were doing. They have incorporated the idea of photography on the Colorado Birding Trail in cooperation with the Colorado Prairie Wildlife Photo Trail. At this time, a number of landowners in the southeast quadrant of Colorado have asked to be identified as hosting photographers. Also, several more photographers have agreed to help steer the development of the Photo Trail.
If you have any comments or questions, if you would like to receive occasional updates about wildlife photography opportunities on Colorado's eastern plains, or if you would like to volunteer to help develop the Colorado Prairie Wildlife Photo Trail, please contact us. We currently need wildlife photographs taken at some of the photo sites to post on the next edition of this website.