With the town and county both considering construction in the Pagosa skyrocket critical habitat the state is ahead of the game protecting the plant.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated 50,635 acres as critical habitat for three wildflowers it considers threatened or endangered, offering them some protection from construction or energy development. There are 9,641 acres designated for the endangered Pagosa skyrocket.
Recently Alison Rohwer was spotted doing a skyrocket survey along Hwy 84. She marks each one with an orange flag. The CDOT now requires a survey in the right of way for any new construction and digging.
When public land is designated critical habitat for various species, federal agencies must consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service when projects or activities may affect those species.
The Pagosa skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha) is a rare plant, endemic to Mancos shale soils, and found only in and around Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County, Colorado. Plants are between 1 and 2 feet tall, with deeply divided leaves, and have showy white flowers flecked with purple dots. The plant is a biennial, surviving for one to many years as a rosette before flowering and dying. The plant is currently known from only three populations (most within 4 square miles) and predominantly on private lands (over 75% of occupied/suitable habitat) with no protection. Plants not on private lands are found mostly on highway right-of-ways (ROWs). Highway ROWs constitute 12 percent of occupied/suitable habitat combined, and 50 percent of occupied habitat. Roadsides are currently less disturbed than adjacent private lands where grazing, landscaping, and building destroy plants and seed banks.
Mary Goshorn came down from the front range with her family at the end of July to collect seeds of Ipomopsis polyantha for a germination study at the Denver Botanical Garden.
Development of Propagation, Transplanting, and Introduction Protocols – The majority of rare plant transplanting and species introduction programs are unsuccessful. However, a close relative of Pagosa skyrocket, scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) is widely available in the horticultural industry and is notoriously easy to grow. A well researched and thoughtful grow-out effort is highly likely to be successful for Pagosa skyrocket. As a first step, a conservation genetics study will be conducted to guide introduction efforts. We propose here to research through greenhouse and in situ (on site) studies how best to germinate and grow plants; and to study in the field the best transplanting techniques and develop protocols for these activities.