Agriculture on Open Space & Mountain Parks
The Open Space and Mountain Parks Department (OSMP) is proud to provide a significant contribution to the agricultural economy of Boulder County. The city charter lists the “preservation of agricultural uses and land suitable for agricultural production” and “preservation of water resources in their natural or traditional state” as OSMP purposes. Approximately 14,000 acres of OSMP lands are utilized for agricultural production.
The current agricultural activities include:
- livestock grazing;
- hay production; and
- annual crop production (wheat, corn, and barley).
The pie chart above summarizes the agricultural land uses currently taking place on OSMP property.
Beef cattle and small grains have long been standard products for Boulder County agricultural producers. Hay for horses has become a significant commodity in the past 20 years with the increase in the numbers of rural residential homes where residents keep horses. Local farmers and ranchers indicate that a majority of the hay brought to market is purchased by buyers within a 40 to 60 mile radius of Boulder. Hay that is produced but not sold is fed to the producers' own livestock. OSMP personnel are currently evaluating agricultural properties that are suitable for the production of locally grown food products for human consumption.
As early as 1986 Boulder’s city charter identified two key attributes for continued agricultural production – land and water. The department has been very successful in purchasing both land and water rights to conserve open space and agriculture. OSMP’s portfolio of water rights arises from the four major creek drainages in the Boulder Valley. These water rights are used to irrigate over 5,500 acres for hay, pasture and grain production. This portfolio contains many senior water rights establishing a reliable source of irrigation in most years and is conservatively valued at $50 million.
Current agricultural practices on OSMP lands can accurately be described as a “multi-functional agricultural system." In addition to their agricultural products, agricultural producers provide wildlife habitats that enhance local biodiversity; learn more about rare and sensitive species on OSMP. Semi-native hay fields and the associated agricultural practices support wildlife not commonly found elsewhere on OSMP lands such as bobolinks, as well as species which are more widespread but still of conservation concern. These include the grasshopper sparrow, lark sparrow, Savannah sparrow, northern harrier, and Swainson’s hawk. The federally threatened Preble’s Meadow Jumping mouse (pictured) is present on OSMP land managed for agricultural uses. Irrigated pastures and the ditches that serve them support plant species of concern such as the federally threatened Ute ladies’-tresses orchid and the locally sensitive American groundnut and showy prairie gentian.
OSMP agricultural lands are also providing landscape amenities that enhance the quality of life in the area. Agricultural activity in the Boulder Valley helps maintain a pastoral setting and creates unique recreational opportunities for its residents. Many OSMP recreational trails traverse properties that are leased for agricultural production.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 16:17