ConocoPhillips Grant Program

Playa Lakes Joint Venture

Grant amount: Up to US $25,000

Anticipated deadline: Apr 12, 2019

Applicant type: Organizations

Funding uses: Research, Education / Outreach, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Counties in Colorado: Adams County, Arapahoe County, Baca County, Bent County, Boulder County Expand all

Location of residency: United States

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In 1990, shortly after Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) was formed, ConocoPhillips (then Phillips Petroleum) joined the Management Board—helping to create the business foundation of our operations and funding an annual grant program to support habitat conservation. Since the partnership began, nearly $2.5 million in PLJV ConocoPhillips grants have been awarded to support more than 150 conservation projects throughout the PLJV region. With more than 6:1 partner match, those funds were leveraged to $16 million. Cumulatively, the projects have affected over 68,000 acres of bird habitat—12,500 of which have been wetlands. The habitat projects have benefited 66 priority bird species including Whooping Crane, Greater and Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Mountain Plover, Least Tern, and Northern Pintail, plus many more bird species and other wildlife.

The PLJV ConocoPhillips Grant Program supports habitat conservation for wintering, migrating and breeding birds in portions of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas (see map). Proposals are accepted in three categories — habitat conservation, research, and outreach — with the majority of the funding dedicated to habitat conservation projects. Funding is limited to no more than $25,000 per project. Proposals must have a minimum of a 1:1 match, with preference given to projects that have higher levels of matching funds, and must show engagement from state wildlife agencies and how the project involves PLJV priorities. Selected projects are funded on a reimbursement basis.

Habitat Project Priorities of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture

The Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) will only consider habitat project proposals that address the priorities below and the PLJV mission, which is to conserve playas, other wetlands and associated landscapes through partnerships for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people in the PLJV region.
  • Projects that demonstrate a clear link between PLJV planning as found in the Area Implementation Plans and on-the-ground habitat delivery.
  • Projects that demonstrate a watershed-based approach wherein wetlands habitats, upland habitats and the needs of a diversity of bird species are integrated into a comprehensive project design and management plan.
  • Projects that specifically attempt to improve the carrying capacity of important habitats for priority bird species as demonstrated through the HABS database.

Research Grant Priorities

Read full details here


Sedimentation of playas is a major conservation concern in the PLJV. Playas provide important wetland habitat with high nutritional resources that many wetland bird species use during the winter and migration.

Climate Change

Climate change models predict that temperatures will increase by approximately 0.6 °C (1°F) per decade during the 21st century and precipitation patterns across the region will change in intensity and timing by the end of the century (Karl et al. 2009). Furthermore, the effects of climate change may not be consistent across the PLJV region. We recognize that climate change is an on-going process and not a punctuated one (i.e., we won’t wake up one day “post-climate change”). Therefore climate change is affecting the PLJV region now. However, for the purpose of this document, the topic ‘climate change’ and the research questions herein are meant to refer to future conditions (i.e., predicted conditions in ~ 50 yrs)1 . Predictive modeling will allow the PLJV to implement proactive conservation practices to better adapt to the effects of climate change. 

Alternative energy development

Alternative energy development in the PLJV region is a concern because of the great energy potential in the form of wind, solar and biofuels production. All six of the PLJV states are in the top 12 for wind energy development (American Wind Energy Association 2009). Only Texas has >6% of its potential wind energy capacity installed, the remaining PLJV states have 2% or less of their potential capacity installed (American Wind Energy Association 2009). Wind energy development in the PLJV region is a cause for concern because of the potential for 1) direct mortality of birds through collisions and 2) loss of habitat due to avoidance of structures and fragmentation of the landscape.

Most of the PLJV region ranks high in solar energy resource potential. Currently (July 2009), the demand for wind energy development overshadows the solar energy industry. There is no doubt that solar will eventually become a priority for alternative energy development. Concerns about the impacts of solar energy developments on wildlife resources are along the same lines as those for wind energy. In addition, solar energy requires large amounts of water for operation, potentially adding additional water stress to a region already experiencing considerable water stress.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act mandated the quadrupling of biofuel production between 2008 and 2022. The PLJV region, an important agricultural region in the U.S. today and in the future, will likely contribute large amounts of biomass for biofuel production. First generation biofuels will require large amounts of grain to meet biofuel needs. Second generation (cellulosic) biofuels may relieve some stress from grain production but may still impact the landscape. 

Water Use

Currently, the water is drawn from many parts of the Ogallala aquifer faster than it can be recharged through natural mechanisms. At its current rate of use, the aquifer in many places will be “dry” by the end of the century; its rate of drying dependent upon the region and level of water usage. Water is also withdrawn for agriculture and human use from streams and rivers in the region, and these withdrawls impact stream flow and riparian habitats. In addition, climate change predictions indicate that precipitation will decrease in the region, especially the southwest. The precipitation may come in fewer events, so even less water will be available throughout the season. The predicted increased temperatures will increase transpiration and evaporation reducing soil moisture and surface water availability. It is important to understand how the current and future changes in water use may impact habitat conservation in the PLJV region. Many of these questions will have a social science perspective. 


Fragmentation of vegetation communities has been implicated in the decline of many wildlife species, especially in grasslands. Prairie landscapes have been altered extensively for agricultural production and are among the least protected ecosystems in the world. The prairies of the PLJV region are no exception. The ability of producers to extract water from the aquifer has allowed extensive fragmentation of the prairie for row-crop production. Concerns about fragmentation will continue to be a priority in this landscape due to increased pressures for alternative energy development (e.g. biofuels production, wind and solar). Federal farm bill programs, such as CRP, provide a tool for increasing the amount of prairie in the landscape. However, spatial modeling and landscape-scale studies will be required to understand the dynamics of fragmentation and to properly target areas for conservation. 

Invasive Plant Species - Invasive species can be native or exotic. Invasive plant species have been shown to alter ecosystem functions (e.g., alter nutrient regimes, alter hydrological cycles). In addition, these species may change the physical structure of the habitat rendering it unsuitable for the species that depend on that habitat.

Contaminants - In many areas of the PLJV region the dominant land use is cropland. The pesticides and fertilizers applied as part of the farming operations have the potential to impact wildlife and their habitats. In addition, an increasing number of producers are using Genetically Modified (GM) crop seeds. Some of the most popular types of GM crops are those that are resistant to herbicides (e.g. “round-up ready”). The use of these crop types is cause for concern for two reasons: 1) potential increased use of herbicides, or use of more potent herbicides, due to developed resistance in “weedy” plants and 2) potential for broad-scale application of the herbicide over sensitive areas in crop fields (e.g. playas) both of which may reduce food availability by killing desirable food producing annual plants (e.g., smartweed and barnyard grass) and contaminate wetlands. Other localized sources of contaminants are the presence of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the landscape. These operations produce enormous quantities of manure that is rich in N and P and can potentially contaminate wetlands, including playas, and groundwater. Because playas are the primary recharge point to the Ogallala aquifer, which provides drinking and irrigation water to millions of people in the Great Plains, contamination of wetlands is of utmost concern. Finally, contamination of surface water in wetlands may impact availability of fresh water, vegetation, invertebrate production and presence/absence, which may ultimately impact water birds that rely on these wetland services.

Basic Natural History Information - Basic research is important to the PLJV because it contributes to our general knowledge of the birds and habitats in the region. However, research of this nature will directly lead to or provide information about habitat management in the PLJV. This information will allow us to refine the information used in models and management recommendations. 

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • The PLJV supports and promotes habitat conservation for wintering, migrating and breeding birds in portions of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas (see map).
  • Funding is available for proposals in three categories — habitat conservation, research, and outreach — with the majority of the funding dedicated to habitat conservation projects.
  • Proposals must have a minimum of a 1:1 match.
  • For habitat projects, maps showing final project boundaries are required.
  • For research projects, reprints of any publications resulting from the project are required.


  • Preference given to projects that have higher levels of matching funds, and must show engagement from state wildlife agencies and how the project involves PLJV priorities 
  • Project boundary polygons (Arc-GIS or Arc-View shapefiles) are also encouraged.