Although it continues to grow as one of the most populated counties in Colorado, Jefferson County is establishing a reputation as a leader in natural resource conservation and sustainable land management best practices. For the second time in 20 years, the county commissioned the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, a unit of Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources, to survey critical biological resources in the area. The first survey was completed in 1993, and since then, 65 percent of the areas identified have been conserved through Jefferson County Open Space.
The Colorado Natural Heritage Program, or CNHP, team of biologists and zoologists surveyed the land and compiled a detailed inventory of plants, animals, insects and ecosystems categorized by rarity.
“The presence of rare species can be an indication of a thriving and healthy environment, which provides important benefits to society,” said John Sovell, CNHP zoologist. “By preserving the habitats rare species depend on, you are helping ecosystems to continue to provide clean water, air and other valuable natural resources to the greater community.”
CNHP presented the findings of their 2010-2011 survey in July to the Jefferson County Open Space advisory committee and staff, and community members, and the results showed that there are many areas with outstanding to high biological significance.
“The survey data will be used in future sustainable planning and land acquisition projects,” said Frank Kunze, Jefferson County Open Space planning supervisor. “The new study showed the county has new and more bio diverse areas than before. We have something special, and we will work to conserve these diverse landscapes for people to enjoy.”
CNHP documented a total of 46 potential conservation areas, two of which were ranked as having outstanding biodiversity significance. These areas are irreplaceable due to extreme rarity of one or more species within them and the unique habitats supporting them. Seventy-six rare or imperiled plants, animals and plant communities were documented during the project, and five new species were added to the CNHP state tracking list because of the research conducted during the survey.
“The primary mission of CNHP is to guide natural resource conservation and planning by assisting governments, organizations and individuals,” said Pamela Smith, CNHP biologist. “This project provided an excellent opportunity for CNHP to assist Jefferson County in achieving their conservation objectives, and will benefit the citizens of Colorado by providing information needed by land owners, resource managers, consultants and scientists to conserve the biological riches of Jefferson County.”
Partners on the project included U.S. EPA Region 8, Colorado State University and Colorado Natural Heritage Program. Landowners and local citizens of Jefferson County also contributed significantly to the overall success of the project.
Other counties throughout Colorado have commissioned CNHP to conducted similar biological inventory surveys, such as Larimer, Boulder and San Miguel Counties.
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