Tuesday, December 25, 2012

CNHP’s 2012 Annual Recognition Event

By CNHP Director, Dave Anderson

I regret to report that unlike two blogs in the past month, this one does not involve beer, but it does involve margaritas!  We held our annual recognition event at The Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant last Friday.  With some of our partners and colleagues, we honored CNHP’s volunteers, students, and staff over a delicious buffet lunch in the Agave Room at the downtown Fort Collins restaurant. 

Revelers in the Agave Room - what a nice venue!
 We could not do what we do without our volunteers and students, and they bring enthusiasm and fresh ideas to CNHP every day!  Our three 2012 CNHP Outstanding Volunteer Awards went to Stacey Anderson, Julie White, and Rebecca Hopson this year.  We are so grateful to them for their commitment to CNHP and wonderful work.  We also gave recognition to the long list of other volunteers who have worked with us in 2012!  Tanya Stevens, our newest volunteer, joined us as well.

Katie Schneburg and Michelle Kamandy - two of CNHP’s amazing work study students

Julie White, winner of a CNHP Outstanding Volunteer Award,
and her fiancé

Rebecca Hopson, winner of a CNHP Outstanding Volunteer Award,
with Jill Handwerk, Botany Team Leader
We gave certificates to our current student staff members- Michelle Kamandy, Nathan Jensen, Jacqui Marquez, Gabe Scott, Katie Schneberg, and Sally Ebeling. 

And our three grand prize winners of the CNHP Photo Contest were Michael Menefee (landscape), Jeremy Siemers (species), and Pam Smith (people at work).

Michael Menefee's winning landscape photo of the High Park fire
 We recognized Michelle Fink, Karin Decker, and Gabrielle Smith for coordinating the wildly successful CNHP Blog.

And last but not least, our kitchen cleaning team, led by Pam Smith, received the prestigious Green Sponge Award, for improving our standard of living tremendously here at the CNHP office. 

Winners of the prestigious Green Sponge Award, led by Pam Smith
(with the big green sponge and “scepter”)
Our distinguished guests included Chris Pague and Rick Knight, both of whom were instrumental in bringing CNHP to CSU!  Heather Knight, one of CNHP’s first employees and current partner at TNC, came as well.  Ken Wilson, Department Head of FWCB, came along with Val Romero and Mary Olivas-Lee from our Budget Office.  Brad Johnson and Jen Ackerfield, our colleagues at CSU came also.  Brian Sullivan and Eric Odell, two of our wonderful partners at Colorado Parks and Wildlife joined us along with our friends at CEMML, Lee Barber and Dave Jones.  We even got to catch up with a couple former employees, Jodie Bell and Jared Papert-Stockton. 

Rick Knight, CSU Professor,
 Chris Pague, TNC Senior Scientist and former CNHP Director, and
Heather Knight, TNC Laramie Foothills Project Director.
It was a wonderful afternoon, and thank you to all who could come and be a part of it. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Report: Assessment of Wetland Condition on the Rio Grande National Forest

CNHP Wetland Ecologist Joanna Lemly recently completed work on a project to characterize and assess the condition of wetlands on the RioGrande National Forest (RGNF) in south central Colorado. The project was carried out in conjunction with CNHP’s first river basin scale wetland assessment in the Rio Grande Headwaters River Basin.

Headwater wetlands in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of the RGNF.
Between 2008 and 2011, CNHP partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded effort to map and assess the condition of wetlands throughout the Rio Grande Headwaters River Basin, which includes the RGNF. Existing paper maps of wetlands created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)’s National WetlandInventory (NWI) program were converted to digital data by GIS Analysts at CPW. In addition to the mapping, 137 wetlands were surveyed across the Rio Grande Headwaters basin using condition assessment methods developed at CNHP over the past decade. Of the wetlands surveyed, 52 were located on the RGNF in 10 different watersheds. To supplement the EPA-funded study, the U.S. ForestService (USFS) provided funding through a Challenge Cost Share Agreement for additional wetland sampling on the RGNF to develop more comprehensive information about the types, abundances, distribution, and condition of the Forest’s wetlands. Through the agreement, 25 additional wetlands on the RGNF were surveyed and all data from the RGNF were summarized.

Field crew members sampling a fen wetlands on the RGNF.
  Based on digitized NWI mapping, we now know the following facts about wetlands on the RGNF:
·        There are 42,862 acres of wetlands and water bodies within the RGNF.
·        Lakes and rivers comprise 4,687 acres or 11%.
·        Wetlands and water bodies represents approximately 2% of the total land area in the RGNF.
·        Slightly over half (55%) of NWI mapped acres are freshwater herbaceous wetlands.
·        Shrub wetlands make up another 30%.
·        When broken down by hydrologic regime, saturated wetlands are the most common, comprising 73% of NWI acres.
·        Within the RGNF, 82% of all lakes are mapped with a dammed/impounded modifier, indicating that most lakes are reservoirs of one kind or another.
·        Beavers influence only 4% of all wetland acres, but 23% of ponds are mapped as beaver ponds and 6% of shrub wetlands are mapped with beaver influence.
·        65% of all NWI acres occur in the subalpine ecoregions, which make up roughly the same proportion of the Forest’s land area.
·        Another 29% of NWI acres occur in the alpine zone. Lower elevation zones contain very few wetland acres.

Down cutting of a small stream observed near a wetland in the Rio de los Pinos watershed of the RGNF.

Field surveys resulted in additional information about RGNF wetlands.
·        In total, 77 wetland sites were surveyed across the RGNF, including 30 riparian shrublands, 27 wet meadows, 17 fens, two riparian woodlands, and one marsh.
·        Nearly 500 plant taxa were encountered during the surveys, including 445 identified to the species level.
·        Of the 445 identified to species level, 420 (94%) were native species and 25 were non-native species.
·        Noxious weeds, an aggressive subset of non-natives, were present in only four plots.
·        Wetland condition measures indicate that wetlands on the RGNF are in excellent to good condition.
·        Floristic quality assessment indices were high for most wetlands, though did vary by both elevation and wetland type.
·        Multi-metric Ecological Integrity Assessment (EIA) scores rated most wetlands with an A- or B-rank, indicating that wetlands were either in reference condition or deviated only slightly from reference condition.
·        A handful of wetlands received C-ranks, due to stressors including grazing, hydrologic modifications, and surrounding land use.

 In conclusion, the RGNF contains thousands of acres of high quality wetlands that provide essential services to the Forest and lands downstream. This study, in conjunction with others carried out by CNHP over the past two decades, provides the RGNF with detailed information on specific wetlands throughout the RGNF along with generalize conclusion on the extent, distribution, and condition of wetlands. This information can be used for a variety of management purposes. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wanted: Vegetation Mapping Field Technicians for Summer 2013 work!

The Colorado Natural Heritage Program at Colorado State University seeks experienced ecology and botany field technicians for summer field work on several vegetation inventory projects. The projects are located at the Niobrara National Scenic River and MissouriNational Recreation River in north central Nebraska, and The Bighorn CanyonNational Recreation Area in south central Montana and north central Wyoming. The work entails vegetation sampling and all positions require field botany or field ecology skills. Knowledge of plant taxonomy and species identification required. Experience identifying flora of the area is preferred. A crew lead position is available to suitably qualified candidates. 

CNHP field technicians hard at work!

Successful applicants will work in groups of two to sample vegetation communities in support of these vegetation inventory and map accuracy assessment projects. Field technicians will be based in housing near the project site and work will entail a combination of daytrips and multi-day backpack, canoe, or car camping trips. Crews will navigate daily to randomly selected sites to establish plot locations and document plant community characteristics. Many sample locations will be in remote areas of the park.

First consideration of applicants will begin January 1, 2013. 
Applications will be accepted for consideration through June 30, 2013. 

To apply, submit resume, cover letter, and 3 References (with phone #’s), online at the following address:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Andy Kratz Retirement Celebration!

US Forest Service Region 2 Botanist, and all-around awesome guy Andy Kratz is packing up his flora and retiring. We thank Andy for his excellent service to the Forest Service, and for his leadership in rare plant conservation. A retirement party is scheduled for Andy on Dec. 14th. Congratulations Andy, and we wish you many happy days botanizing to your heart’s content in the Colorado alpine. 

 Best wishes from everyone at CNHP!

Andy Kratz (far left) enjoying a day in the field with Alicia Langton (USFWS),
Rick McNeil and Steve Olson (both from USFS).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The connection between butterflies, plants and beer

This November CNHP Zoologist Rob Schorr had the opportunity to meet with Odell Brewing Company personnel to discuss a poorly-understood butterfly that has interesting ties to the beer brewing process. 

Odell Brewing Company's bike rack of hops

During a biological inventory of the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2011, CNHP Zoologists Jeremy Siemers and Rob Schorr stumbled upon several populations of the hops blue butterfly (Celastrina humulus).  

A female hops blue butterfly (Celastrina humulus) 

The hops blue butterfly is a about the size of a silver dollar when in flight, showing purple-blue wings, but when the wings are closed it is an inconspicuous white dot on a field of green hops.  This unique butterfly is only found in a few Front Range counties of Colorado, and it gets its name from its primary host plant, wild hops (Humulus lupulus). Rob presented the current state of knowledge on the natural history and population ecology of the hops blue, then there was a fun discussion about the happenstance that put this rare butterfly in a region of the country with such strong affiliation to brewing and brewing culture. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rare Plant Conservation Initiative Event at Pateros Creek Brewery

by CNHP Director, Dave Anderson

The Rare Plant Conservation Initiative event this past Friday at Pateros Creek Brewery was a huge success!

The event at Pateros Creek Brewery had a large turnout.

A pint for a plant! Who could resist?
Steve Jones, the owner/beermaker of Pateros Creek Brewing said this was one of the biggest private events the brewery had ever had. This is not a surprise, since what is not to love about drinking a few great beers to save biodiversity?  There are now many new fans and friends of the Rare Plant Conservation Initiative, and of Spiranthes Extra Pale Ale.  It is certainly my new favorite beer.

Steve Jones from Pateros Creek highlights the collaboration between the Colorado RPCI and Pateros Creek Brewing,
with CNHP botantist Susan Panjabi in the background.

CNHP Zoologist Jeremy Siemers (right) enjoys a pint with Matt Tansey from Colorado State Forest Service,
Jill Baron from USGS and Dennis Ojima from CSU/NREL.

Byrony Wardell from WCNR and her husband John Wardell, along with  John Giodanengo
from Wildland Restoration Volunteers didn't miss their chance to sample a great beer for a great cause. 

Thanks to Steve Jones and Brad Gilbert (taproom supervisor) for hosting this event. Thank you, Pateros Creek, for the wonderful hospitality, creativity, and generosity!