Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rare Plant Conservation Initiative CAP meeting: Dolores and San Miguel Counties

By Bernadette Kuhn, CNHP Botanist

Our group walked gingerly over the lichen-encrusted soil to get a closer look at a plant species known only from gypsum outcrops in Mesa, Montrose and San Miguel counties. Cryptantha gypsophila (Gypsum Valley cat's-eye), a species described in 2006, dotted the low hills of Big Gypsum Valley, one of the field trip sites for the latest in a series of Conservation Action Planning (CAP) meetings. Our timing was impeccable - the plants were in full bloom.

Cryptantha gypsophila
Cryptantha gypsophila (Gypsum Valley cat's-eye), with a ring for scale.

Photo by Bernadette Kuhn.

The CAP workshop and field trip, held May 4-6, convened in the town of Norwood, with field trips to the Big Gypsum Valley and Dan Noble State Wildlife Area. A CAP workshop 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. The participants for this meeting consisted of county officials, land managers, land trust representatives, botanists, and planners. Susan Spackman Panjabi (CNHP), Betsy Neely (The Nature Conservancy) and Peggy Lyon (CNHP) led the workshop.

Betsy Neely
Betsy Neely of The Nature Conservancy photographing the Gypsum Valley cat’s-eye and unusual lichens growing in Big Gypsum Valley.

Photo by Bernadette Kuhn.

The priority action areas for the workshop are Big Gypsum Valley, Miramonte Reservoir, and Lone Mesa State Park. These areas are ranked by CNHP as having Outstanding Biodiversity Significance (B1). The following rare plant species are found at these sites: Cryptantha gypsophila (Gypsum Valley cat's-eye), Gutierrezia elegans (Lone Mesa snakeweed), Physaria pulvinata (cushion bladderpod), Puccinellia parishii (Parish's alkali grass) and Sporobolus neallyi (Neally's dropseed).

group shot
Workshop participants on field trip to Big Gypsum Valley: Carol English (purple shirt), Cara MacMillan (striking a pose), Dave Schneck (kneeling), Susan Spackman Panjabi (bandana, camera), Alicia Langton (grey shirt), Al Schneider and Bernadette Kuhn (background). Photo by Betsy Neely, The Nature Conservancy (used with permission).

Our group worked together to identify stresses to the rare plants (current, future and potential), then developed strategies to address them. We also identified the knowledge gaps and monitoring needs for the rare plant species.

vehicle tracks
Gypsum hills that provide habitat for Cryptantha gypsophila showing signs off-highway vehicle use. During the CAP meeting, we developed a strategy to communicate with the off-highway vehicle community and explore ways of working together to minimize impacts on the plants and their habitats.

Photo by Betsy Neely, The Nature Conservancy (used with permission).

This is the sixth CAP meeting held by the Rare Plant Conservation Initiative. Future meetings are slated for the following locations: Gateway, North Park, Middle Park, the Middle Arkansas Valley, Piceance Basin, and Pagosa Springs.

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