Working beyond boundaries. Collaboration as a key to natural areas management.

Field Workhops

At the 2017 Natural Areas Conference, our trips will be all day field workshops.

Trips

FW-1 Rocky Mountain National Park

NAC Topic Areas:

  • Forest and Range Management
  • Natural Areas Management in Light of Climate Change
  • Role of Native Plant Materials in Restoration & Rehabilitation
  • Invasive Species Management
  • Value of Ecosystem Services and Working Landscapes

Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses almost 270,000 acres and crosses through elevational gradients and montane, subalpine, and alpine life zones. Trip leaders will discuss the ecology and a variety of management issues as we travel through these different life zones. Within the alpine life zone, trip leaders will discuss how vegetation adapts to the harsh wind and sun exposure in this environment. Trip leaders will talk about how air pollutants carried from the front range and other parts of the US can have greater impacts on vegetation at this elevation. Participants will hopefully get to see an alpine restoration project and learn how the park restores native vegetation in areas that could take decades or a century to revegetate on its own.

Moving into the subalpine-montane life zones, trip leaders will discuss forest health from the perspective of forest stand composition and impacts of bark beetles and fire. Limber pine is a species of management concern in Rocky Mountain National Park and its populations are threatened by the spread of the non-native pathogen that causes the lethal disease white pine blister rust (WPBR). Further impacts to this species result from mountain pine beetles, dwarf mistletoe, and changing climatic conditions. To address these threats, the USFS and NPS collaborated to develop the “Limber Pine Conservation Strategy” for Rocky Mountain National Park. This presentation will briefly describe why limber pine is considered a keystone species and how collaborative interdisciplinary research conducted before the forests are impacted by WPBR provided the science foundation for the (1) conservation of limber pine genetic diversity and (2) early intervention and monitoring recommendations to shift limber pine’s future trajectory toward resilience and away from endangered species status.

The proactive Conservation Strategy is a component of the park’s effort to preserve the genetic integrity of native flora and fauna in the southern Rocky Mountains and is being expanded for application to the greater RMNP area to support collaborative efforts to ensure the future of healthy limber pine ecosystems in the Southern Rockies. Field trip participants will have the opportunity to explore montane wetlands and forests and learn how hydrology, land management, and herbivory drive the health of riparian ecosystems. Participants will discover the complexity of riparian interactions, including how data have exposed the classic yet over-simplified trophic cascade in which top predator suppress herbivores and lead to healthy ecosystems (i.e., wolf-elk-beaver-willow-river relationships).

Leaders

Notes

There may be limited walking at some stops.

Time
7:30 am – 5:00 pm

Capacity
24

Difficulty
Easy to Moderate

Travel Time
1 hr.

Transportation
Vans

Links

FW-2 Conserving Biological Diversity in the Boulder Area Prairie-Foothills Ecotone: Tallgrass Prairie in the Semi-arid West

NAC Topics:

  • Conservation Across (Natural/Political/Cultural) Boundaries
  • Urban/Wildland Interface
  • Value of Healthy Land in Water Resource Management
  • Role of Natural Areas in Pollinator and Invertebrate Conservation
  • Natural Areas Management in Light of Changing Climate
  • Value of Ecosystem Services and Working Landscapes
  • Restoration in the Anthropocene
  • Forest and Range Management
  • Invasive Species Management
  • Rare Species Management

Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) and City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) have preserved more than 140,000 acres of prairie, agricultural, and foothills land in Boulder County and vicinity over 40 to 50 years. Cooperative and separate purchases of property, conservation easements, and other methods have been used to build this local public land system both close to and more distant from urban areas. This field workshop will visit several larger areas of contiguous habitat at the prairie-forest ecotone with a focus on rare tallgrass prairie communities. Soils too rocky to plow, increased precipitation at the base of the mountains, and preservation of natural areas have led to the conservation of several thousand acres of remnant tallgrass prairie, including tallgrass-ponderosa pine savanna. Rabbit Mountain, identified as an area of high biodiversity significance by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, and the biologically rich prairies of Boulder provide habitat for ground nesting birds, rare butterflies, rare plants such as the local endemic Bell’s twinpod, numerous small and large mammals, and many other organisms. We will discuss conservation strategies including use of prescribed fire, cattle grazing, and visitor management – and restoration of historic gravel mining. Boulder area open space lands serve as research laboratories for climate change effects, urban edge implications for natural area conservation, and other ecological and biological topics. Past and ongoing research projects will be highlighted.

Leaders

Notes

There will be a couple of hikes in relatively level but rocky terrain, totaling 2 to 3 miles.

Time
7:15 am – 6:00 pm

Capacity
30

Difficulty
Easy to Moderate

Travel Time
1 hr. 30 mins.

Transportation
Vans

FW-3 Chalk Bluffs State Natural Area

NAC Topics:

  • Conservation Across (Natural/Political/Cultural) Boundaries
  • Value of Ecosystem Services and Working Landscapes
  • Forest and Range Management
  • Rare Species Management

The Chalk Bluffs Natural Area is a 640-acre parcel owned by the Colorado State Land Board and designated a State Natural Area by the Colorado Natural Areas Program. This property is managed for multiple uses, including livestock grazing, wind energy generation, and the conservation of significant natural resources through the State Land Board’s Stewardship Trust special management designation. Trip leaders from the Colorado Natural Areas Program and Colorado State Land Board will discuss the unique voluntary partnership that enhances conservation at this site. Field workshop participants will tour the piedmont grasslands, shortgrass prairie, and barren cliff outcrops of the Ogallala and White River Formations known as the Chalk Bluffs. The barren cliff escarpments provide an effective barrier to fire, thus protecting outlying populations of foothills plant species such as ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, limber pine, and mountain mahogany. These montane plants combine with prairie grasses to form communities unique to the escarpment. Clay lenses within the sandstone layers support rare cushion plants such mountain cat’s-eye, Oreocarya cana, and Wyoming feverfew, Bolophyta alpina. The surrounding area has over a hundred years of fossil collection including scientifically important specimens of Paleocene, Eocene, and Miocene vertebrates, and the bluffs support a high concentration of nesting raptors.

Leaders

Notes

Expect to walk a total of 1.5 miles off-trail.

Time
8:30 am – 3:00 pm

Capacity
15

Difficulty
Moderate

Travel Time
1 hr. 30 mins.

Transportation
Vans

FW-4 Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space

NAC Topics:

  • Conservation Across (Natural/Political/Cultural) Boundaries
  • Wilderness and Research Natural Areas Management
  • Species Re/Introductions & Assisted Migration
  • Rare Species Management
  • Value of Ecosystem Services and Working Landscapes

This workshop will focus on collaborative partnerships that developed around natural and cultural resource management on Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space including: bison reintroduction and associated disease mitigation (Brucella) and assisted reproductive techniques used to assemble this unique bison herd; Black-tailed prairie dog management, impacts and management of sylvatic plague; Black-footed ferret reintroduction including genetic implications, recovery efforts and population management; and grassland bird monitoring and conservation. Finally, participants will visit the Lindenmeier Archaeological Site, a National Historic Landmark to learn about the process of cultural resource inventory, interpretation, and protection across the landscape.

First Stop – Colorado State University Department of Biomedical Science on the Foothills campus to tour Dr. Jennifer Barfield’s Laboratory and research and visit bison pens at Colorado State University and U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Dr. Barfield will discuss disease issues and research efforts lead by CSU and by USDA-APHIS.

Second Stop – Laramie Foothills bison pasture located at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space to discuss bison management, the partnership between the City, County, CSU and USDA APHIS and the connection to other conservation herds.

Willie Altenburg (Folsom Grazing Association) will discuss livestock grazing on conserved lands and the conservation partnerships that have developed between Natural Areas and Folsom.

Third stop – One of Soapstone’s black-tailed prairie dog colonies that support a wild population of black-footed ferrets and has been part of a multi-year research project on sylvatic plague management. Fort Collins Natural Areas staff will discuss sylvatic plague management and use of deltamethrine; Black-footed ferret reintroduction, prairie dog management; Dan Tripp (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) will discuss sylvatic plague vaccine, research and use; Arvind Panjabi (International Director, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies) will discuss grassland birds and prairie dog colonies, trends he has observed at Soapstone Prairie and the conservation link between the Laramie Foothills and Mexico.

Fourth stop – Lindenmeier National Historic Landmark – Dr. Jason Labelle (Director, Center for Mountain and Plain Archaeology, Colorado State University) will discuss the relevance and scope of cultural resources within the Laramie Foothills and the importance of Lindenmeier Site. Other topics will include cultural resource survey techniques, site management and how Fort Collins Natural Areas approached protection of cultural resources.

Lunch at Lindenmeier Overlook

Fifth stop – Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center: John Hughes, Wildlife Biologist National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center will discuss ferret conservation and recovery efforts, captive breeding program, conditioning pens, genetic issues, research.

Leaders

Notes

Short hikes on even terrain or along established trails.

Time
7:15 am – 5:00 pm

Capacity
35

Difficulty
Easy

Travel Time
1 hr.

Transportation
Vans

FW-5 Urban River Restoration Bike Ride: Successes and Challenges

NAC topics:

  • Urban/Wildland Interface
  • Role of Native Plant Materials in Restoration
  • Restoration in the Anthropocene

Join us for a bike ride along the river! Ride public transportation and bicycles to selected City of Fort Collins riparian natural areas on the Cache la Poudre River. View successful restoration where the once-channelized river has been reconnected to its floodplain and explore the multiple benefits of ecological floodplain restoration. Discussion will include processes and challenges of implementing and maintaining these restorations to meet goals in a dynamic system. Newly established wetlands and riparian areas provide valuable wildlife habitat in an urban setting. Possible wildlife sightings may include great blue heron, white-tailed deer, muskrat, belted kingfisher, and fall bird migrants.

Ride to Old Town Fort Collins for pizza buffet lunch at local hot spot, Beau Jo’s Restaurant.

Leaders

Notes

Bicycle 9-12 miles on city streets and mostly flat paved and soft-surface trails. Bring water, sunscreen, jacket.

There will be an additional $50 fee for this trip. Fee covers: Bike rental, helmet, lock, bus rides, and lunch.

Time
8:00 am – 2:00 pm

Capacity
12

Difficulty
Easy

Travel Time

Transportation
City bus and rented bicycles

FW-6 Forests, Fires, and Water: Poudre Canyon, Cache la Poudre River, active forest restoration sites, and Historic Mishawaka Amphitheatre and Restaurant

Conference themes:

  • Conservation Across Boundaries
  • Value of Healthy Land in Water Resource Management
  • Natural Areas Management in Light of Changing Climate
  • Forest Management
  • Invasive Species Management

Workshop participants will learn ecological restoration techniques for managing large landscapes, with a focus on connections between forest management and watershed protection. This field workshop will get an up close and personal experience in Colorado's majestic mountains and conifer forests, discussions on the banks of the upper Cache la Poudre River, Colorado’s only designated National Wild and Scenic River, and buffet lunch at the famous Mishawaka amphitheatre and restaurant.

The workshop will begin with a walk through recent forest management areas and discussions about basic forest restoration principles in Colorado. Presenters will share monitoring and research results, and how to apply the best available science to maintain resilient forest ecosystems with lessons learned from seven years of intensive multiparty collaborative monitoring and adaptive management through the Colorado Front Range Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative.

Next the workshop will travel into the Poudre canyon with views of snow-capped peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park in the distance. Lunch will be in the heart of the 2012 High Park Fire, which burned nearly ninety thousand acres. Workshop participants will see first-hand the severe post fire erosion and watershed impacts that occurred following the fire and what has been done to mitigate impacts on important downstream municipal water supplies, while at the famous Mishawaka. Finally, the workshop will stop at Gateway Natural Area to learn how you can apply new decision support tools that help simplify complex management decisions, such as connections of forest management and watershed health, and quantify cost avoided as a result of pre-fire mitigation strategies.

Leaders

Notes

There will be a few short walks but most of the stops are along a road or in a parking lot. Total time in van is 2.5 hours total (multiple stops).

There will be an additional $30 fee for this trip. Lunch will be provided at Mishawaka.

Time
8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Capacity
40

Difficulty
Easy

Travel Time
2 hrs. 30 mins.

Transportation
Vans