Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Site profile: Indian Creek Hogback, Larimer County

B2: Very High Biodiversity Significance

Indian Creek Hogback Potential Conservation Area

This site was visited during our Larimer County Inventory of 2004. The red sandstones of the Fountain Formation overlain by Ingleside Formation form the hogback cliffs that are the dominant feature of this site. These cliffs extend at least six miles from Devil's Backbone to Horsetooth Reservoir. The dominant vegetation along the cliffs is mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus) with a variety of native grasses. Bell's twinpod (Physaria bellii), a globally imperiled (G2/S2) plant, is found patchily throughout the site. Where it occurs, it grows from the base of the cliff to the toe of the slope and is most abundant where vegetation is sparse such as in areas of active erosion. This site supports a good (B-ranked) occurrence of Bell's twinpod. The species is known only from shale or sandstone hogbacks along the foothills of the Front Range from Jefferson County north to near the Wyoming border. Bell's twinpod has long been considered to be primarily restricted to Niobrara shale, so occurrences on Fountain and Ingleside formation sandstones such as within this Potential Conservation Area are little studied.

Physaria bellii
Bell's twinpod (Physaria bellii) in fruit

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Greetings

Happy Holidays from all of us here at CNHP!

Thank you for making our new blog a success.  Here's to another year of continuing collaboration and conservation achievements as we carry on the work of documenting the biodiversity of our beautiful state!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Introducing the Peggy Lyon Collection at the Ft. Lewis Herbarium

CNHP Botanist Peggy Lyon has donated her personal flora collection representing over 480 species to the Mountain Studies Institute. The Peggy Lyon Western Colorado Flora Collection is to be housed at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. The Fort Lewis College herbarium is an internationally registered collection with current holdings of approximately 15,000 specimens of vascular plants and fungi, principally from southwest Colorado and the San Juan Mountains.

Peggy Lyon
Peggy the Explorer

The Peggy Lyon Collection represents vascular plants from throughout Colorado's western slope, collected by Peggy from 1993 through 2008. Following in the footsteps of intrepid lady botanists of years gone by (e.g., Alice Eastwood and Kate Brandegee), Peggy is leaving a lasting legacy of her tireless efforts to identify and catalogue the flora of western Colorado.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Field methods - field photography

Some of the rare plant species that CNHP keeps track of are not only low in numbers, but also in stature. When we document locations of these species, we often make a photo record as well. For some reason, the most diminutive species often seem to require comparison with a common object in order to fix their true size in our consciousness. In other situations, we may want to record the dimensions of a feature that is key in plant identification.

Measuring the spines on a hawthorne

Although the most useful technique would probably be to carry a small ruler that photographs well in all light conditions, and is easy to clean, it appears to be more common to use a variety of objects from one's pockets. For example;

The classic Swiss army knife -

Botanist's hand lens -

Spare change -

...and, of course, snacks -

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Site profile: Mineral Creek, Hinsdale County

B2: Very High Biodiversity Significance

Mineral Creek Potential Conservation Area

This site was visited during our Hinsdale County wetland survey, and features a small, isolated fen wetland in the La Garita Wilderness. The site is a closed-basin, lake-fill peatland with multiple small inlets and rivulets throughout, and has a large area of floating mat towards the center and grounded peat accumulations along edges. The fen supports an excellent (A-ranked) occurrence of the globally imperiled (G2/S1S2) mud sedge (Carex limosa) montane wetland community, as well as a good (B-ranked) occurrence of the globally vulnerable (G3/S3) woolly sedge (Carex pellita) montane wet meadows community. These two herbaceous communities form a mosaic where Carex limosa dominates the central floating mat, covering approximately 35% of the wetland, and Carex pellita dominates the surrounding extensive area of grounded peat mat. Uplands to the west of the wetland grade to steep talus slopes and those to the east have mixed quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) forest that slopes down towards Mineral Creek.

Carex limosa
Carex limosa at Mineral Creek PCA

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New CNHP Online Giving Page

'Tis the giving season, and our website now has a direct link to a CSU/CNHP online giving page for folks who wish to donate directly to CNHP.  We are a non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible.

If you'd like to make a donation to our Program, click on the "Donate Now" button on the upper left of our website.

You can choose to pay securely with a credit card online or print out a form to mail in with a check. In the future, we hope to also add our CSU Capital Campaign endowments as optional funds for people to select as the recipient of their donation.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beaver - Castor canadensis

Beaver (Castor canadensis) are found throughout Colorado, sometimes even in urban areas. These large members of the rodent family are well known for their ability to change and control the hydrology of the streams where they live.

beaver lodge
Typical beaver pond with lodge in Hinsdale County, Colorado.

Although beaver dams and ponds are a common landscape feature in many of Colorado's higher mountain valleys, we don't usually think of finding them in the canyons of the eastern plains. CNHP Zoologist John Sovell took these photos of a beaver next to its den in the bank of a small stream in southeastern Colorado.

beaver next to bank den
Close up of a beaver next to its muddy bank den.  No gorgeous mid-stream lodges here!

beaver in SE Colorado
Off to find some lunch...

Here, instead of majestic aspen and mountain willows, a beaver must make do with coyote willow and cottonwood saplings.

beaver habitat in SE Colorado
What passes for beaver habitat in the riparian areas of the southeast plains of Colorado.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Conservation Action Planning

CNHP Conservation Planner Lee Grunau recently conducted a 2 day training session for the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas on Conservation Action Planning (CAP). CAP is a process developed by The Nature Conservancy that provides answers to a core set of questions critical for the success of any conservation project, such as:

  • What is the biodiversity of interest and its status?
  • What threats exist and what is their importance?
  • Which stakeholders should be engaged, what underlying causes and opportunities warrant attention?
  • What specific outcomes are we trying to achieve?
  • What actions are we taking to achieve the desired outcomes?
  • How do we know if our actions are working?
  • How can we adapt and learn and share results to achieve impact at broader scales?

A CAP is an iterative and adaptive process that looks at conservation targets at multiple spatial scales in order to be as effective as possible with the knowledge and resources available. Since the process was developed, over 300 CAP plans have been completed in North America, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific. CNHP has used the CAP protocol on several of our own projects.

In addition to having a CAP trainer on staff, CNHP has also developed analysis techniques to determine conservation target viability and landscape condition, and to measure levels of conservation effectiveness (see our draft Biodiversity Scorecard for more information). Our BIOTICS database contains thousands of tracked element occurrence data points that are integral to conservation planning efforts throughout Colorado. Need help with conservation planning? Give us a call!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Conservation large and small

As a sponsored program at CSU's Warner College of Natural Resources, CNHP is funded exclusively by grants from our partners (i.e., sponsors). Each year we work with a variety of federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as non-profit organizations of both local and national scale. In the past 10 years, we have partnered with about 70 different sponsors, and our annual grant award totals averaged $1.8 million.

CNHP grant awards by fiscal year

CNHP is pleased to work with many partners who have small budgets to contribute to the conservation of Colorado's elements of biodiversity, and not just with partners who have funding for multi-year, large scale projects. We have averaged 55 grants per year during the past 10 years, and about 30% of each year's awards are for less than $10,000.

Number of grants by dollar amount FY00-FY09