Thursday, September 17, 2015

Catching Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Near Trapper's Lake

This summer CNHP zoologist John Sovell conducted surveys for wildlife species across Garfield County, Colorado. In July, Sovell's surveys included fishing for Colorado River cutthroat trout. His field work is part of a larger effort led by Delia Malone (CNHP ecologist) to document locations of rare plant and animal species in the county, as well as noxious weed locations. Sovell and Malone will provide information from their county-wide biological surveys to Garfield County to aid in planning and natural resource management.

Colorado River cutthroat trout are one of dozens of rare species that occur in Garfield County, including Colorado hookless cactus and Debeque phacelia. Both of these rare plants are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

A downed log rests in a pool occupied by Colorado River cutthroat trout on the North Fork of the White River near Trapper's Lake. Colorado River cutthroat trout rely on large woody debris like this tree to help form pools, store spawning gravels, and provide refuge from predators. 
Sovell updated information on Colorado River cutthroat trout at four locations in Garfield County, including the North Fork of the White River where it empties into Trapper's Lake. These brilliantly colored fish are one of three extant subspecies of trout native to Colorado. Recent genetic and morphological studies suggest that there are two extant lineages of cutthroat trout on Colorado's Western Slope. Cutthroat trout in the White River Basin are part of what is known as the Blue Lineage. For more information on Colorado River cutthroat trout, check out the newly updated State Wildlife Action Plan.

John Sovell, CNHP zoologist, catches a Colorado River cutthroat trout as part of  the 2015 Garfield County Survey of Critical Biological Resources. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

CNHP Leads Wetland Assessment Training in Colorado Springs

On September 9-10, CNHP Wetland Ecologists Joanna Lemly and Cat Wiechmann led a two-day training on the Ecological Integrity Assessment (EIA) methodology in Colorado Springs. A diverse group of twenty natural resource professionals attended the training, including representatives from six different federal, state, and local government agencies, four different consulting firms, and several conservation groups. The training included a full day of classroom instruction and a day in the field at Bear Creek Regional Park practicing the wetland assessment technique. Reviews from the class were all very positive, with many participants stating that they look forward to applying what they learned in their work. 
CNHP Wetland Ecologist Cat Wiechmann (red shirt) teaches training participants how to assess wetland condition using the Environmental Integrity Assessment protocol.
The training was funded by a grant from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and was offered at no cost to participants.

Cover page of the new Ecological Integrity Assessment Manual available on the CNHP website.
More information on the EIA methodology, including links to download the field manual (pictured above), datasheets, and presentations about applying the EIA method, can be found here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Rare Orchid Surveys Yield Low Numbers in West Denver

In late August, our botany team explored areas of West Denver hoping to relocate populations of the rare Ute ladies' tresses orchid (Spiranthes diluvialis). The orchid, which is listed as Threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has highly fluctuating population numbers from year to year. Last year in August 2014, no orchids were found at the West Denver occurrence. This summer, Pam Smith and Bernadette Kuhn were only able to locate six orchids at a location where hundreds have previously been documented. The orchids contain an array of flowers that curve along the top of the plant, like a white spiral staircase. Once the orchid's white flowers turn brown and the fruits mature, the plants are nearly impossible to spot in the tall grasses, rushes, and coyote willows that are typically found in suitable Ute ladies' tresses habitat. Only one of the orchids this year was in bloom (see photo below). While surveying, we were excited to spot a monarch butterfly resting in a plains cottonwood (see second photo below).

The lovely, rare and Threatened Ute ladies' tresses orchid (Spiranthes diluvialis) in bloom.
A monarch butterfly rests in a plains cottonwood tree in West Denver.