Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gunnison Sage Grouse Conservation Easement in Dove Creek, CO

In 2006, CNHP collaborated with Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist to create the Dove Creek Potential Conservation Area (PCA) in southwestern Colorado. This PCA was drawn to identify habitats that support one of the seven remaining populations of the federally listed Gunnison sage-grouse. As of 2014, this population (referred to as the Monticello-Dove Creek population) contains only 98 individuals, according to the final listingrule issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lek count data from 19 years of monitoring are generally well below the Rangewide Conservation Plan population target of 500 breeding birds.

In recent years, in an effort to reverse the population trend, Montezuma Land Conservancy has worked with private landowners to conserve important sage-grouse habitat with conservation easements.  Since 2012, the Conservancy has conserved 3,340 acres of occupied habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse – 2,700 of which is located within the CNHP Dove Creek PCA. The most recent project protected approximately 680 acres of the Dove Creek PCA under a conservation easement. The property contains sagebrush habitats, as well as areas formerly used to grow dryland pinto bean crops which have been replanted into sage brush.  The conservation easement contains a total of 788 acres, and borders BLM land and the Coalbed Canyon State Wildlife Area.

Sagebrush habitats and former pinto bean cropland near Dove Creek, Colorado offer habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, a species listed as threatened in 2014 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Monday, March 23, 2015

CNHP Director Attends Plant Conservation Alliance Meeting in Washington, D.C.

CNHP director David Anderson recently attended meetings in Washington, D.C. organized by the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA). The PCA is a public-private-agency partnership of organizations that work to maintain, enhance, and restore native plant populations and communities. Anderson worked with other non-federal cooperators during the meeting to identify strategies for plant conservation. He presented information on the addition of rare plants to the Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), as well as the Rare Plant Conservation Initiative project that helped prompt this exciting addition to the Colorado SWAP. Crafting a bill to create a National Plant Conservation program was the primary strategy identified by the group. Anderson, along with other PCA members, also met with members of the appropriations committees and federal agency leaders to discuss plant conservation, including the National Seed Strategy. After the Strategic Planning Meeting, Anderson was able to participate in a tasting of botanical spirits hosted by the United States Botanical Garden and led by Dwight Grimm. Grimm is a vermoutheir and founder of the Little Alchemist Farm. He produces small-batch herbal spirits, elixirs, and oils from his farm in Preston Hollow, New York.

CNHP director Dave Anderson (far right) with other participants in the Non-Federal Cooperators Committee Strategic Planning Meeting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is your Phragmites native?

If you work in wetlands, you have no doubt marveled at the spectacular common reed (Phragmites australis). This grass can tower over a field biologist, growing up to 15 ft tall. It is frequently found along streambanks and ditches in Colorado. Often considered an aggressive non-native, recent development of molecular markers has led to the discovery that both native and introduced genotypes exist in North America. This evidence suggests that land managers should think twice before treating common reed like an invasive weed.

Common reed (Phragmites australis) grows in a tall stand in wetlands along the Arkansas River.
It can be difficult to determine native vs. introduced Phragmites using morphological characters. Luckily, Dr. Bernd Blossey has created a handy guide to help distinguish between them. If looking at this table makes you dizzy, the website also offers a free diagnostic service. Send them your common reed specimen, and they will key it out for you! Crystal Strouse, Fort Collins Natural Areas botanist, recently suspected that a population of Phragmites at Running Deer Natural Area was native. After sending material to Bernd Blossey, it was confirmed that the Running Deer population belongs to the native genotype of common reed. At CNHP, we plan on making more collections of this species during the 2015 field season to help determine how common the native genotype is in Colorado.
A stand of common reed (Phragmites australis) at Running Deer Natural Area was identified as the native genotype.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The 2015 PIT Tag Workshop: Learning about rare fish and rare-fish databases

The PIT Tag Workshop is a conference hosted approximately every four years to address use of, technology improvements to, and analysis of passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag data for rare fish in the Columbia River Basin and beyond. Database and web-application developer Kirstin Holfelder and zoologist Rob Schorr attended the 2015 PIT Tag Workshop in late January at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington. Holfelder is being assisted by Schorr and Amy Greenwell in the development of STReaMS (Species Tagging, Research, and Management System), which will be the new database for the Upper Colorado and San Juan river basins rare fish data. These data are used to monitor some of the West’s rarest fish species, including Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), humpback chub (Gila cypha), bonytail chub (Gila elegans), and razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus). The meeting sponsors, PTAGIS, presented the evolution of the database used to house Columbia River rare fish data, and it gave Holfelder and Schorr a chance to identify needs or modifications to the developing STReaMS.
Kirstin Holfelder in front of Multnomah Falls.

Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington.

View of the Columbia River from Skamania Lodge.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The West’s rarest fishes are getting help from CNHP: Database planning at the Upper Colorado and San Juan River basins fish recovery programs’ researchers meeting

Database and web-application developer Kirstin Holfelder and zoologist Rob Schorr attended the 34th annual Researcher’s Meeting of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program in Moab, Utah. Holfelder gave a talk describing the structure of the newly-developed and evolving Species Tagging, Research, and Management System (STReaMS). Holfelder is the brains behind an interactive database and web-accessible interface that will allow researchers and managers access to decades-worth of rare fish data from Colorado and San Juan rivers research and monitoring efforts. These data are used to monitor some of the West’s rarest fish species, including Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), humpback chub (Gila cypha), bonytail chub (Gila elegans), and razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus). Holfelder and Schorr were able to interact with the West’s premier fish biologists and discuss how researchers and managers want access to fish data.
Kirstin Holfelder presents the structure of STReaMS, the developing database system for rare fish data in Upper Colorado and San Juan river basins.

Kirstin Holfelder enjoys sights at Arches National Park during downtime in Moab, Utah.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Job Announcement: Ecology and Botany Field Techician

Colorado State University seeks experienced ecology and botany field technicians for summer field work at two riverine national parks in north-central Nebraska and south-central South Dakota. The work entails vegetation sampling requiring field botany or field ecology skills. Knowledge of plant taxonomy and species identification required. Experience identifying flora of the area is preferred. A crew leader position is available to suitably qualified candidates.

Visit the Warner College website to apply and view a complete position description. First consideration of applicants will begin February 1st, 2015. Applications will be accepted until all positions have been filled or through June 30, 2015, whichever comes first.

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

View of the Missouri River.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

State Wildlife Action Plan Update: We Need Your Input!

CNHP is working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to update the State Wildlife Action Plan. The Plan outlines a ten-year vision for managing Colorado’s fish, wildlife and natural habitats. Stakeholders are encouraged to review draft sections of the plan. The Threats and Conservation Actions chapters are now available for review by Feb 16, 2015. Visit the CPW website to read available drafts and provide comments.

The updated State Wildlife Action Plan outlines threats and conservation actions
for many of Colorado's rare and imperiled species, including Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens). 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Job Announcement: Wetland Ecology Field Technician

Position Announcement:

The Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) at Colorado State University (CSU) seeks 4 experienced field technicians for summer field work assessing the condition of wetlands throughout the lower Arkansas River Basin in southeast Colorado. Positions require field botany and ecology skills. Pay rate is $2000-2800/month. Position duration is 3 or 5 months (May–Sept or June–Aug 2015). Knowledge of plant taxonomy and species identification required. Preferred qualifications include experience in wetland or riparian ecology, local flora, and familiarity performing field work for long days (10+ hours).

Field technician Spencer Rubin surveys wetlands on the
Southeastern Colorado Plains in 2014.
Fieldwork will take place in wetlands and riparian areas ranging from excellent to poor condition as part of a wetland condition assessment project in the lower Arkansas River Basin. Standard duties will involve driving and hiking to field sites; in-field plant identification, in-office plant identification with a microscope; detailed completion of field survey forms, data entry, landowner interaction; and extensive collection of vegetation, water, soil, wildlife habitat, and environmental data. Data will be collected using both rapid assessment protocols and more in-depth vegetation surveys. Field housing will likely be based in Pueblo, CO. Some camping and travel will be necessary.

Field technician Cat Weichmann surveys wetlands on the
Southeastern Colorado Plains in 2014.
To apply and view a complete position description, please visit and select Wetland Ecology Field Technician Research Associate I.

First consideration of applicants will begin February 16, 2015. Applications will continue to be considered until all positions are filled or until July 31, 2015, whichever comes first.

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.