New! The Pagosa Skyrocket Natural Area Designation
Top two Pagosa skyrocket photos by Ellen Mayo and Alicia Langton. Other photos by Norm Vance.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife celebrates 40 years of the Colorado Natural Areas Program
Denver – Colorado Parks and Wildlife celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Colorado Natural Areas Program in 2017. This statewide program recognizes and works to conserve locations that have one or more unique natural features important to Colorado. Natural areas are found on both public or private lands and are officially designated through voluntary conservation agreements with landowners.
“I like to say that CNAP is a small program with a big mission,” said Raquel Wertsbaugh, Colorado Natural Areas Program Coordinator. “I’m thankful that these incredibly special places in our state are supported by CNAP not only to ensure the longevity of the natural features themselves but for future generations to learn from and be inspired by.”
CNAP was established by statute in 1977. The mission of the program is to identify, evaluate, and support the protection of specific examples of natural features and phenomena as enduring resources for present and future generations through a statewide system of Designated Natural Areas. Over 250 rare, threatened or endangered plant and animal species are cooperatively protected at nearly 100 designated sites in Colorado. Additionally, several significant geologic and fossil resources are highlighted and protected under the CNAP mission.
“It really is a gift to be a volunteer steward, because you develop a relationship with the landscape,” said Dina Clark, volunteer steward and Colorado Natural Areas Council member. “You get to take care of something in a special way that’s different from anything else you care for. You’re able to see changes from year to year, watch a site age and change and see new things you haven’t seen before. And there’s such value in being able to contribute to the big picture of preservation in Colorado.”
Two new sites were recently approved for designation. Corral Bluffs Natural Area in El Paso County was designated for its world-class paleontological features. The Pagosa Skyrocket Natural Area in Archuleta County has been designated to help protect and assist in the recovery of the federally endangered Pagosa skyrocket and its habitat.
“I appreciate CNAP in many ways but mainly because it is a unique State program whose priority is to protect lands that support Colorado’s biodiversity and geological/paleontological features for future generations,” said Denise Culver, a partner from the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and Colorado Natural Areas Council member. “CNAP applies scientific data to prioritize its efforts, and expertly engages and involves volunteers to ensure that these Colorado gems will be monitored and protected forever. This is satisfying both as an ecologist and a citizen of Colorado.”
More information on the program and its 40-year history of CNAP can be found at http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/CNAP.aspx.
The Pagosa skyrocket grows on weathered Mancos Shale outcrops at about 7,000 feet elevation in the vicinity of Pagosa Springs in southwestern Colorado. Two known occurrences of the species exist; the largest includes three miles of highway right-of-way and the private properties that extend for about one mile on either side. A smaller occurrence of about 23 acres also includes highway right of way, private, and Bureau of Land Management land.
Why does the Pagosa skyrocket need protection? The primary threat to Pagosa sky rocket is land use changes including commercial, residential, municipal, and agricultural property develop- ment, and associated utility installa- tions and access roads. In addition, nonnative invasive plants (weeds), concentrated livestock use, and the potential effects of climate change may impact the species. Because of its extremely limited distribution, the species is vulnerable to habitat modification and changes in the envi- ronment. Pagosa skyrocket also relies on insect pollinators to reproduce. The loss of pollinators and pollinator habitat is considered a threat to this species.
What have we done to recover the Pagosa skyrocket ? Since Pagosa skyrocket was recently listed, conservation and recovery actions are in their beginning phases. However, many efforts to conserve the species began even before the species was listed:
Many local, state, and federal agencies and organizations, as well as privately owned busi- nesses, have been working to- gether to conserve the species.
The US Fish and Wildlife Ser- vice and other agencies have worked with private landowners to implement on – the – ground management and protection.
The Rare Plant Conservation Initiative has developed a Conservation Action Plan for the rare and threatened species in the Pagosa Springs area which outlines needed conservation actions.
What do we need to do to recover the Pagosa skyrocket ? We will develop a Recovery Plan for Pagosa skyrocket in the next few years that will include the following actions deemed necessary to achieve recovery:
Establish conservation areas to protect Pagosa skyrocket habitat and habitat for pollinators.
Establish a management plan to help address threats and protect the species in perpetuity.
Develop propagation and transplantation protocols for future restoration or reintroduction efforts.
Conduct education and outreach in the community.
What can you do to help conserve Pagosa skyrocket? Funding and assistance may be available to help conserve the species on private and local government lands. Funding opportunities could include costs for fencing, tax credits, or assistance with conservation easements.
Spread the word about this local treasure!