Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eriogonum pelinophilum: Monitoring at the Wacker Ranch Natural Area

By Bernadette Kuhn
In the last few weeks, CNHP botanists and volunteers have been busy sampling transects of Eriogonum pelinophilum (Clay-loving wild-buckwheat). The field work is part of a joint monitoring project with the Colorado Natural Areas Program and Denver Botanic Gardens. The Clay-loving buckwheat is endemic to Mancos Shale badlands in Western Colorado, and is federally listed as Endangered. Our 2011 field work is a continuation of monitoring efforts that began in the 1990’s.

The running of the tape: Joe Rankin, volunteer, helps set up a transect.

The monitoring project is positioned in the heart of one of the largest known populations of the buckwheat. This population occurs on both the BLM-owned Fairview ACEC, and the state-owned Wacker Ranch Natural Area. The goal of this study is to understand trends in population size over time and comparing populations on BLM land and State land.

Wind-dispersed volunteers: Charlie Sharp (USFW, Grand Junction) kneels beside flags marking dozens of Clay-loving wild-buckwheat individuals. Peggy Lyon, CNHP botanist, takes notes. Larry Allison, all-star volunteer, looks for seedlings after the recent rain.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Re-opening Student IT position

If you are currently enrolled as a student at Colorado State University, and are either a Junior in Computer Science, Computer Information Systems, or Information Management OR have demonstrated comparable experience, CNHP is looking to hire a part-time Student IT Tech I to help us manage our computer network.

The new closing date is May 8, 2011, or until the position is filled. Read the full announcement for more information and how to apply. For information about being a student employee at CSU, see the Student Employment Services website.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Boulder County looking for volunteer plant monitors

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Our friends at Boulder County Parks and Open Space are looking for volunteer plant and invasive species monitors. Volunteers will get to visit some of Boulder County's most scenic properties while collecting ongoing scientific data in the field.

Plant monitors will identify and record plants within predetermined locations in June, July, and September to evaluate the success of seeding projects. Invasive species monitors will identify and map the location of weeds from May to September to determine areas of management concern and success.

The schedule is flexible as long as you commit to volunteering 12-16 hours per month. Knowledge of local flora (native and exotic) is preferred. Natural Resource Monitors must be at least 18 years old. Application deadline is April 29th (next Friday). For more information and an application, contact Michelle Bowie at 303-678-6219 or

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ecological Systems: Sandsage Shrubland

These shrublands dominate sandy areas on Colorado’s eastern plains, where they often intermingle with shortgrass prairie to form a locally patchy sandsage-shortgrass matrix. Occurrences are characterized by sand sagebrush with an understory of tall, mid- or short grasses and scattered forbs. Yucca and snakeweed are common in some areas. A variety of small mammals and burrowing reptiles live here where soils are easy to excavate. Typical species include kangaroo rats, plains pocket mice, grasshopper mice, western rattlesnakes, and western hognose snakes. Rarer species that are typical of this habitat include greater and lesser prairie-chickens, Cassin’s sparrows, and ornate box turtles.  Fire and grazing are the most important dynamic processes for sandsage ecosystems, although drought stress can impact this system significantly in some areas. 

Sand sage shrublands cover nearly two million acres in Colorado, and more than 80% of this is on private lands. State lands and federal lands managed by the US Forest Service account most for the remaining area. Although these sandy-soiled habitats have frequently been passed over while neighboring grasslands are converted to agriculture, and remaining tracts are generally in good condition, some 20% of historic coverage has been lost. The sand sage ecological system is poorly conserved in Colorado, with few patches in protected areas. These shrublands in Colorado are vulnerable to adverse impacts from energy development (including both wind and oil and gas).

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

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Report - Lowry Range Biological Survey 2010 Update

The 26,000-acre Lowry Range is located at the southeastern edge of the greater metropolitan Denver area, and is bordered by the City of Aurora and the Aurora Reservoir on its western boundary. The Range is part of the former 100,000-acre Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range. This piece of land is now held in trust for the State of Colorado by the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners (SBLC) and is a property of the State's School Trust.

The purpose of this assessment was to identify significant biological values of Lowry Range (especially occurrence of species in need of conservation), and to evaluate the health of the ecological systems. This report is an update to the original 2006 report, and incorporates all of the findings from both 2005 and 2010 surveys. The 2010 biological survey was focused on the area most likely to undergo water and energy development in the near future. The results of this assessment will assist the SBLC in evaluating potential conservation easement scenarios and energy and water development projects, as well as improve understanding of how development might affect the existing biological resources of Lowry Range.

The results of the surveys confirm that there are 12 uncommon and rare species of animals, including an excellent quality occurrence of one of Colorado's rarest small mammal subspecies, the northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides macrotis). The global distribution of this subspecies is limited to only 3 counties within Colorado, and conservation of the northern pocket gopher population on Lowry Range is essential to conserving this subspecies.

For more information, download the full report from our Documents and Reports page.

Friday, April 8, 2011

JE Canyon Bioblitz Book

CNHP Conservation Planning Team Leader RenĂ©e Rondeau and Dina Clark of the Denver Botanic Gardens have put together a book about last year’s bioblitz at JE Canyon in southeast Colorado. The book documents the 24-hour intensive inventory that took place in June 2010, during which 865 species were documented on the ranch. It is full of great photos – check it out here at

Friday, April 1, 2011

Job Opening: Conservation Data Services Team Leader & Database Developer

The Conservation Data Services (CDS) Team supports Colorado's conservation information needs through GIS mapping, data management, database development, and related computer services for recording and presenting biological and natural resource information. The team maintains CNHP's Biodiversity Tracking and Conservation System (BIOTICS) database, providing the most comprehensive source of locational information about imperiled species and ecological communities in Colorado. We work closely with government, private land managers, and owners to provide a central clearinghouse to collect and compare information on these vital biological resources across jurisdictional and land ownership boundaries in Colorado. The CDS Team also creates customized mapping, database, and website products to aid staff and clients in managing biological resources, and/or analyzing biological field sampling data.

The CDS Team Leader coordinates the statewide implementation of CNHP's information with partners and clients, including federal, state, and local agencies, as well as both non- and for-profit organizations. The CDS Team Leader supervises the CDS Team (3-5 staff) and is supervised by the Director. CNHP's work is funded entirely through grants, contracts, and agreements, and as a member of the Leadership Team the CDS Team Leader will need to actively pursue funding opportunities. Approximately 25-33% of this person's time will be spent on Team Leader duties, while 66-75% will be spent on grant writing and serving as principal investigator on database related projects.

Closing date is May 8, 2011.

The closing date has been extended to May 22, 2011.

For more information about the position and how to apply, please see the announcement on the Employment and Volunteering page of our website.