Monday, March 30, 2015

The Celastrina Project:Building Future Conservation Biologists at CSU

CNHP just launched a crowdfunding campaign: The Celastrina Project! The goal of the Celastrina Project is to help Colorado State University students develop, execute, and present their own research on a rare Colorado plant, animal or ecosystem. Donations for the project will be used to pay stipends, field supplies, and travel costs for CSU students. Read more about the project, check out the Celastrina Project video, and how to donate by clicking here.

The idea for this project began in 2014, when CNHP sponsored the first Celastrina Project honors student to study the population ecology of the hops blue butterfly (Celastrina humulus), pictured above.

CSU undergraduate student Callie Puntenney presents results from her honor's thesis on hops blue butterfly population ecology.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gunnison Sage Grouse Conservation Easement in Dove Creek, CO

In 2006, CNHP collaborated with Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist to create the Dove Creek Potential Conservation Area (PCA) in southwestern Colorado. This PCA was drawn to identify habitats that support one of the seven remaining populations of the federally listed Gunnison sage-grouse. As of 2014, this population (referred to as the Monticello-Dove Creek population) contains only 98 individuals, according to the final listingrule issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lek count data from 19 years of monitoring are generally well below the Rangewide Conservation Plan population target of 500 breeding birds.

In recent years, in an effort to reverse the population trend, Montezuma Land Conservancy has worked with private landowners to conserve important sage-grouse habitat with conservation easements.  Since 2012, the Conservancy has conserved 3,340 acres of occupied habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse – 2,700 of which is located within the CNHP Dove Creek PCA. The most recent project protected approximately 680 acres of the Dove Creek PCA under a conservation easement. The property contains sagebrush habitats, as well as areas formerly used to grow dryland pinto bean crops which have been replanted into sage brush.  The conservation easement contains a total of 788 acres, and borders BLM land and the Coalbed Canyon State Wildlife Area.

Sagebrush habitats and former pinto bean cropland near Dove Creek, Colorado offer habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, a species listed as threatened in 2014 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Monday, March 23, 2015

CNHP Director Attends Plant Conservation Alliance Meeting in Washington, D.C.

CNHP director David Anderson recently attended meetings in Washington, D.C. organized by the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA). The PCA is a public-private-agency partnership of organizations that work to maintain, enhance, and restore native plant populations and communities. Anderson worked with other non-federal cooperators during the meeting to identify strategies for plant conservation. He presented information on the addition of rare plants to the Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), as well as the Rare Plant Conservation Initiative project that helped prompt this exciting addition to the Colorado SWAP. Crafting a bill to create a National Plant Conservation program was the primary strategy identified by the group. Anderson, along with other PCA members, also met with members of the appropriations committees and federal agency leaders to discuss plant conservation, including the National Seed Strategy. After the Strategic Planning Meeting, Anderson was able to participate in a tasting of botanical spirits hosted by the United States Botanical Garden and led by Dwight Grimm. Grimm is a vermoutheir and founder of the Little Alchemist Farm. He produces small-batch herbal spirits, elixirs, and oils from his farm in Preston Hollow, New York.

CNHP director Dave Anderson (far right) with other participants in the Non-Federal Cooperators Committee Strategic Planning Meeting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is your Phragmites native?

If you work in wetlands, you have no doubt marveled at the spectacular common reed (Phragmites australis). This grass can tower over a field biologist, growing up to 15 ft tall. It is frequently found along streambanks and ditches in Colorado. Often considered an aggressive non-native, recent development of molecular markers has led to the discovery that both native and introduced genotypes exist in North America. This evidence suggests that land managers should think twice before treating common reed like an invasive weed.

Common reed (Phragmites australis) grows in a tall stand in wetlands along the Arkansas River.
It can be difficult to determine native vs. introduced Phragmites using morphological characters. Luckily, Dr. Bernd Blossey has created a handy guide to help distinguish between them. If looking at this table makes you dizzy, the website also offers a free diagnostic service. Send them your common reed specimen, and they will key it out for you! Crystal Strouse, Fort Collins Natural Areas botanist, recently suspected that a population of Phragmites at Running Deer Natural Area was native. After sending material to Bernd Blossey, it was confirmed that the Running Deer population belongs to the native genotype of common reed. At CNHP, we plan on making more collections of this species during the 2015 field season to help determine how common the native genotype is in Colorado.
A stand of common reed (Phragmites australis) at Running Deer Natural Area was identified as the native genotype.