Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from CNHP

To all our USA readers - have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. To everyone else, have a great Thursday! :)

Wild turkey with word balloon: What's a turkey go to do to get a G1 Ranking around here?
A little Natural Heritage Network humor there.

(Those of us here at CNHP who are vegetarian are rooting for the turkey. But pumpkins had better watch out.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

CNHP supplies spatial analysis training to sister program

We were visited last week by Andrea Hazelton, Botanist for the Navajo Natural Heritage Program, who came up to Colorado to receive training in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) spatial analysis techniques by CNHP Landscape Ecologist Michelle Fink.

The Navajo Natural Heritage Program (NNHP) is working in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and CNHP to develop a Conservation Action Plan for the San Juan Basin, an area that covers the four-corners where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet. The Navajo Nation is the largest landowner of the San Juan Basin area.

Andrea spent an intensive four days with Michelle learning various techniques to model ecological integrity at the landscape scale, while gaining a healthy appreciation of all the things that can go wrong with GIS software (Michelle's Law: the tighter the timeline, the more things will go wrong).

The Navajo Nation (light pink) in relation to the San Juan Basin (blue outline).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wetland info for kids

CNHP ecologist Allison Shaw spent the summer looking at wetlands in Teller County. While she was there, she developed a nice little presentation about wetlands for a local children's camp. This brief lesson is a good introduction to the topic for school-age children. Check it out here (3 MB PDF).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

CNHP in the November/December issue of the National Wetlands Newsletter

For the past two years, CNHP Wetland Ecologist Joanna Lemly has been working with colleagues from the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, Colorado Department of Transportation, and CSU Researcher Brad Johnson on a project to improve wetland mitigation by incorporating more watershed-scale information into the decision making process. A description of their work was recently published in the Environmental Law Institute's National Wetland Newsletter.

The full newsletter is available to subscribers, but a copy of the portion of the November/December newsletter featuring Joanna's work is available here.

To demonstrate how to use watershed-scale information within the mitigation process, one key step has been to create high quality wetland maps for areas with a high density of wetland impacts. The project team chose the northern Front Range corridor, stretching from north Denver to south Fort Collins, as their demonstration area. This area includes the Big Thompson and St. Vrain drainages from the foothill to their confluence with the South Platte River. CNHP Wetland Mapping Technician Zack Reams spent the summer creating those new wetland maps which will be submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wetland Inventory Program for inclusion in the National Wetland Mapper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ecological Systems: Aspen Forests

This widespread ecological system occurs throughout much of the western U.S. and north into Canada, although it is more common in the montane and subalpine zones of the southern and central Rocky Mountains. Aspen forests cover more than three and a half million acres in Colorado, including one patch of over half a million acres blanketing the edges of the White River Plateau and Flat Tops. Many people don't realize that aspen trees form clumps of clones by suckering from underground root systems. Often what appears to be a stand of many trees is actually only one individual tree with many stems. This survival strategy makes aspen well-suited to re-sprouting after large-scale disturbances such as the forest fires that can be so common in some Colorado summers.

Rarity in Aspen Forests

Aspen forests are one of our most species-rich ecosystems. Most of the species that call aspen forests home are relatively abundant and not of significant conservation concern. Rarer species of this system include: purple martin, northern goshawk, Cassin's finch, olive-sided flycatcher, flammulated owl, and dwarf shrew.


Overall, aspen forests in Colorado are in good condition and moderately well conserved. Much of Colorado's aspen forest is owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service. This system is not as well represented in the nation's Wilderness system as the alpine and spruce-fir ecological systems. Primary human activities in this ecological system include cattle and sheep grazing, recreation, and hunting. Some aspen stands are cut for pulp mills (for the making of composite boards such as plywood). Threats to the aspen forests ecological system are comparatively low. However, in some areas of the state, sudden die-offs of aspen stands have been observed. The cause(s) of this die-off are unclear and research is on-going. Currently, sudden aspen death is not widely distributed across the state, but there is potential for this condition to pose a more significant threat to our aspen forests in the future.

Overall biodiversity, threat, and protection status scores for aspen in Colorado.

A "windrose" graph depicting aspen status for individual scoring factors.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Job Opportunity: Center for Collaborative Conservation Associate Director

Our friends at the Center for Collaborative Conservation (CCC) are looking to hire an Associate Director. The CCC works with a wide range of stakeholders to promote learning and collaborative action on pressing conservation and livelihood issues in the western US and in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Associate Director will work collaboratively to lead, co-lead and manage CCC programs through education, research and engagement.

The deadline to apply for this position is December 15, 2010.

CNHP staff are participating on the Search Committee for this position, so we have posted the full announcement on our Employment and Volunteering page. The online application for this position is available here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

CNHP Participates in EPA Regional Wetland Workshop in Bozeman, MT

Overview of O'Dell Creek Ranch in Montana's Madison River Valley, site of the daylong field trip associated with the EPA Workshop. Photo by J. Minter, EPA.

Three CNHP Ecologists - Denise Culver, Joanna Lemly, and Laurie Gilligan – recently attended a weeklong EPA-supported meeting in Bozeman, Montana, aimed at strengthening wetland programs around EPA Region 8. The meeting, called the EPA Region 8 Wetland Program Capacity Building Workshop, was hosted by the Montana Wetland Council and Montana Watercourse. Representative from all six states in EPA Region 8 were present (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota), as well as several tribal representatives.

Landowner Jeff Lazlo describes the restoration efforts underway at O'Dell Creek Ranch. Photo by J. Minter, EPA.

Both Denise and Joanna gave presentations during the meeting. Denise highlighted the many wetland-focused county surveys that EPA grants have supported over more than 15 years. She also discussed her current EPA-funded project, Tools for Colorado Wetlands, through which CNHP will be producing a field guide to Colorado's wetland plants and several online wetland resources. Joanna's talk focused on CNHP's partnership with the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Wetland Wildlife Conservation Program. It is through this partnership and a project called Statewide Strategies for Colorado Wetlands that CNHP began its wetland mapping efforts, as well as the Rio Grande Headwaters pilot basinwide wetland condition assessment.

Heritage Program Wetland Ecologists in action. From left to right, CNHP's Joanna Lemly, MTNHP's Cat McIntyre, CNHP's Laurie Gilligan, MTNHP's Karen Newlon, and CNHP's Denise Culver. Photo by J. Minter, EPA.

In addition to presenting on CNHP's wetland projects, Joanna co-led a daylong field trip and workshop with Montana Natural Heritage Program (MTNHP)'s Cat McIntyre. The field trip covered rapid and intensive field protocols used by both CNHP and MTNHP in wetland condition assessment projects. Joanna focused on vegetation sampling protocols while Cat demonstrated techniques for sampling and describing hydric soils. They also introduced participants to concepts important to setting up a random sample survey design and some basic information about EPA's upcoming National Wetland Condition Assessment.

Joanna explains laying out a vegetation plot (left), while Cat demonstrates digging a soil pit (right). Photo by J. Minter, EPA.

The field trip took place at O’Dell Creek Ranch, an impressive wetland restoration site in Montana's Madison River Valley. More than 25 wetland professionals from around the region participated. The sun shined all day long and field trip participants were thrilled to be out on such a beautiful day with their feet wet and the sedges glowing yellow with the coming fall. All agreed it was a terrific day.

Cat explains rapid assessment protocols to field trip participants. Photo by J. Minter, EPA.

All photos courtesy of Jill Minter, Wetlands Program, EPA Region 8.