Photo by Cary Aloia

2024 Crane Fest Speakers: Sneak Peek

Today we are excited to bring you the very first festival update for the 2024 Monte Vista Crane Festival! While we are still getting the full schedule set (stay tuned for an update on that soon), we wanted to begin sharing some of the incredible speakers and special tours we have in store for 2024. Please read on to learn more about some of the special talks on tap for this year!


Water and Waterfowl in Colorado: Lessons Learned from South to North - Speaker: Casey Setash

Water is an increasingly limited resource in Colorado and the primary resource necessary to conserve waterbirds across the arid West. From flood-irrigated hay meadows to wetland impoundments, different water applications create different types of waterfowl habitat of variable quality and scale up to impact waterfowl distributions and population status. Join Casey Setash to hear results from research spanning the San Luis Valley and North Park, Colorado about why water is so vital and how wildlife managers can most effectively use limited resources to sustain waterfowl populations in the state. 

About Casey: Casey Setash is a new avian researcher for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. She worked on cinnamon teal in Monte Vista for her master's work at CSU and waterfowl breeding ecology in North Park for her PhD (also at CSU). She got into birding in college and is generally interested in using statistics to study how and why avian populations change, especially as their environments change. She is using techniques like this in her current role to study the impacts of renewable energy infrastructure on birds in Colorado. 

Photo by Derek Christians / Campus Waterfowl
Photo by Derek Christians / Campus Waterfowl

Conservation efforts for the Rio Grande sucker and Rio Grande chub on the Baca Refuge

Speaker: Cole Brittain


The Baca Refuge has two imperiled native fish species, the Rio Grande sucker and Rio Grande chub, that are native to the Rio Grande drainage. The population of Rio Grande suckers is only one of two aboriginal populations left in the entire state of Colorado. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has worked to protect and expand the current population with help from local partners such as Colorado Parks & Wildlife and the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Together, great strides have been made to keep these species on the landscape and ensure their future in the San Luis Valley. 

About Cole: Cole Brittain is a fisheries biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and has worked to conserve imperiled species within the San Luis Valley for over 10 years. His work to restore habitat and create fish passage for the native fish of the San Luis Valley has been replicated throughout the state to aid in other recovery efforts for imperiled native species. He currently works out of an office in Gunnison, Colorado and continues to help out with local efforts for the Rio Grande sucker and Chub.



Lessons from Indigenous Lifeways and Our Feathered Relatives - Speaker: Aimee Roberson

In this time of crises — climate change, ecocide, declining biodiversity, social inequity and injustice — many of us are wondering how we can make a difference. Sharing compelling stories from her life, career, and culture, Aimee Roberson will discuss how these things are interconnected and why she believes that an understanding of Indigenous lifeways and values can help us envision and create a better future for all of us — birds and people alike.

About Aimee:

Aimee Roberson is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and of Chickasaw descent. Roberson is a lifelong student of Earth’s wisdom, and currently serves as the Director of the Southwest Region for American Bird Conservancy. She is committed to reciprocity, community and environmental stewardship, and partners with people and all our relations to ensure that native grasses grow and rivers continue to flow.

Lesser Prairie Chicken Recovery Efforts in Colorado

Speaker: Jonathan Reitz, Wildlife Biologist Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Lamar, Colorado

Reitz, Jonathan

The lesser prairie-chicken is an icon of Colorado's southeastern prairies.  Due to a long list of environmental and anthropogenic factors, they nearly become extirpated in extreme southeast Colorado and southwestern Kansas, in an area that was considered one of the species' core areas.  In an effort to recover the species on and around the Comanche and Cimarron National Grasslands, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Kansas Wildlife Parks and Tourism, and Kansas State University partnered up and embarked on an unprecedented project for lesser prairie-chickens.  Over the course of four years, a small army of biologists, wildlife technicians, and graduate students caught and translocated over 400 lesser-prairie chickens to the US Forest Service Grasslands.  First and foremost, project partners wanted to take a significant step towards recovering this dwindling population on the sandsage prairie. But, another major goal was to determine if trapping and transplanting could even work and if it can be a viable "tool" that should be included in the "lesser prairie-chicken conservation tool box".   In many ways, this challenging project was the first of its kind. Biologists had no idea whether or not the bird's own instincts and behaviors would get in the way of success. 

About Jonathan: Jonathan Reitz is a Wildlife Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Lamar, CO.  He has been working on lesser prairie-chicken conservation since 2006.  Jonathan helps manage, research, and conserve a long list of big game, small game, and threatened/endangered species in southeast Colorado.