Friday, September 4, 2015

Rare Orchid Surveys Yield Low Numbers in West Denver

In late August, our botany team explored areas of West Denver hoping to relocate populations of the rare Ute ladies' tresses orchid (Spiranthes diluvialis). The orchid, which is listed as Threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has highly fluctuating population numbers from year to year. Last year in August 2014, no orchids were found at the West Denver occurrence. This summer, Pam Smith and Bernadette Kuhn were only able to locate six orchids at a location where hundreds have previously been documented. The orchids contain an array of flowers that curve along the top of the plant, like a white spiral staircase. Once the orchid's white flowers turn brown and the fruits mature, the plants are nearly impossible to spot in the tall grasses, rushes, and coyote willows that are typically found in suitable Ute ladies' tresses habitat. Only one of the orchids this year was in bloom (see photo below). While surveying, we were excited to spot a monarch butterfly resting in a plains cottonwood (see second photo below).

The lovely, rare and Threatened Ute ladies' tresses orchid (Spiranthes diluvialis) in bloom.
A monarch butterfly rests in a plains cottonwood tree in West Denver.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Let's Hear it For the Interns, Student Employees, and Volunteers!

CNHP gives a shout out to all of the students, volunteers, and interns that helped us make our 2015 field season a success! Thanks so much to the following individuals who supported our projects with their energy, enthusiasm, and hard work: Devanshi Kukadia, Abigail Bradley, Joe Tort, Caleb Freeman, Alison Hall, James Hunt, Dominik McLaren, and Maddie Micallef. Good luck on your future endeavors!

CNHP interns (from left) Caleb Freeman and Joe Tort, along with Alison Hall (student employee at Resources for Disabled Students) and David Anderson (CNHP director).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

CNHP Map Will Support Governor's Colorado Beautiful Initiative

Colorado Natural Heritage Program director David Anderson, along with staff members Amy Greenwell and Michael Menefee, were thrilled to participate in The Outdoors Summit in downtown Denver this summer. The Summit convened to help launch new initiatives to protect, preserve and enhance the state’s great outdoors and natural areas. Conservation leaders from around the state attended the event. Speakers included Governor John Hickenlooper and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar among many other notable participants.

Governor John Hickenlooper presents his Colorado Beautiful plan at the Outdoors Summit in Denver, Colorado.
During the Summit, Governor Hickenlooper rolled out his Colorado Beautiful plan, an exciting conservation initiative that ultimately aims to enable every Coloradan to live within a 10-minute walk of an open space natural area. Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) has awarded $15.6 million in grants to support the Colorado Beautiful plan. A hallmark of the plan will be the creation of an interactive trail and recreational lands map. The map will use CNHP's existing map of Colorado's protected areas, called The Colorado Ownership, Management, and Protection (COMaP). COMaP is a dataset maintained by CNHP and the CSU Geospatial Centroid.

The complete Colorado Beautiful map is scheduled for completion in 2016. The map will also help guide plans to preserve and strategically protect Colorado’s most threatened landscapes, waterways and urban open spaces. It will also be used to identify 16 high-priority trail projects to help connect people to more recreational opportunities. The map will include all the state's trails, open spaces, parks and protected lands in a single site. “Colorado Beautiful, we believe, is not only about connecting our parks, trails and scenic lands, but about connecting people to the outdoor delights that set Colorado apart as a special place,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s important to bring our newest generations outside, away from electronic distractions and into the splendor of our waterways, forests, wildlife, grasslands, mountains and canyons.”

An image of the Colorado Ownership, Management, and Protection map (COMaP) that will be integrated into the Colorado Beautiful map proposed by Governor Hickenlooper.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Local Film Explores Ecological Challenges On Colorado's Front Range

We are excited to share a short film created by Ryan McDonald. Ryan is a Fort Collins native and incoming freshman at Colorado Mountain College majoring in new media and film. Ryan thoughtfully explores the ecological challenges and opportunities associated with rapid population growth and development on Colorado's Front Range in his film short. CNHP wetland ecologist Jeremy Sueltenfuss is interviewed throughout the film, as well as a frequent CNHP collaborator Crystal Strouse from the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas. Ryan created the film for a senior project at Polaris High School. Click here to check it out.

The Keyhole at Devil's Backbone Open Space in Larimer County, Colorado.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Job Announcement: Wetland Ecology Research Associate

The Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) at Colorado State University (CSU) seeks one experienced Wetland Ecology Research Associate to work closely with CNHP’s Wetland Team on all aspects of wetland condition assessment projects in Colorado. Pre-field season activities includes logistics and planning, securing permission to access sites on public and private land, preparing field maps in ArcGIS, and preparing field supplies. During summer field seasons, the position acts as Field Crew Lead, coordinating the work of other field team members and communicating with the Wetland Team Leader, as well as actively collecting field data on wetland condition. Post-field season activities include quality control of field data, identifying collected plant specimens, entering field data or working with interns and work studies to enter data, and collaborating with the Wetland Team Leader on data analysis and report writing.

To apply and view a complete position description, please visit:   

Applications deadline is August 24, 2015. 

Reflecting departmental and institutional values, candidates are expected to have the ability to advance the Department's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

CSU is an EO/EA/AA employer and conducts background checks on all final candidates.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Free Wetland Training in Colorado Springs, Sept 9-10, 2015

CNHP is excited to offer a free training on the Ecological Integrity Assessment (EIA) method for assessing wetland condition. The training will be limited to 20 participants. The course will be taught by CNHP wetland ecologists Joanna Lemly and Laurie Gilligan. The training will be help Sept 9-10, 2015 at Colorado Parks and Wildlife Regional Office in Colorado Springs. Training sessions will be held from 9am-4pm on both days. Day 1 will be in the classroom, Day 2 will be held at a nearby wetland. Please RSVP to Joanna Lemly or 970-491-2127) to reserve your spot. 

The EIA method for wetlands has been developed and refined over 10 years by NatureServe and Natural Heritage Programs across the county and adapted for use in Colorado by CNHP. In partnership with CPW, CNHP has used the method to assess the condition of over 500 wetlands and riparian area across Colorado. The EIA method places an emphasis on biotic integrity and combines quantitative vegetation metrics will qualitative metrics that evaluation landscape context, buffer, hydrology, soils, and water quality. For more information and background on the EIA method, please visit the EIA section of NatureServe’s website.

This free training has been funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8, Wetland Program Development Grant and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

CNHP Staff Member Captures Images of the Rare Hops Blue Butterfly

CNHP Environmental Review Coordinator and photographer Michael Menefee recently captured photos of the rare hops blue butterfly (Celastrina humulus). Menefee took the photos for the Celastrina Project, a research effort led by CNHP zoologist Rob Schorr. The project funds CSU honor's students to conduct research on rare species like the hops blue.

Hops blue butterflies occur in a very narrow global range, found only in Colorado and Montana. Colorado's population are scattered along the Front Range from Larimer County south to El Paso County. This delicate butterfly relies on wild hops (Humulus lupulus var. neomexicana) to complete its life cycle. Along the Front Range, wild hops grow in cool, moist canyons.

A hops blue butterfly rests on poison ivy at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Photo by Michael Menefee.
The stunning image below, captured by Menefee, shows a female hops blue butterfly ovipositing her eggs into a small male wild hops flower.
A female hops blue butterfly ovipositing her eggs into a wild hops flower. Photo by Michael Menefee.
Menefee took the photos at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, while accompanying two CSU honor’s students: Alyssa Meier and Rachel Maison. The students have been conducting research this summer at the Air Force Academy on the resident population of hops blue butterflies.
A resting hops blue butterfly on a wild hop leaf. Photo by Michael Menefee.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Provide Your Comments for the Newly Updated Colorado Rare Plant Guide

By Susan Panjabi

The Colorado Rare Plant Guide now contains updated species profiles for rare plants listed as Candidate, Threatened, or Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. CNHP botanist Susan Panjabi is accepting comment on these species profiles through July 31, 2015. The profiles contain new, beautiful artwork by the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists, as well as photographs by local botanists. Mancos milkvetch (Astragalus humillimus) is an excellent example of an updated profile, with new photos from botanist Steve O'Kane, and artwork by Vanessa Martin (see drawing below). Mancos milkvetch is a federally listed Endangered plant known from a small area in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico. Please contact Susan with edits, as well as any additional information, photographs or artwork related to these rare plant species.

A drawing of Mancos milkvetch (Astragalus humillimus) by Vanessa Martin. Martin is a member of the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists.