Summary of Services

The Colorado Natural Heritage Program is Colorado’s only comprehensive source of information on the status and location of Colorado’s rarest and most threatened species and plant communities. We share information with a wide range of stakeholders in partnerships that work to ensure the Colorado’s biodiversity resources are not diminished. CNHP has an enormous impact on conservation in Colorado through these partnerships.

CNHP tracks and ranks Colorado’s rare and imperiled species and habitat and provides scientific information and expertise to promote the conservation of Colorado’s wealth of biological resources. Established in 1979, the CNHP is a non-profit scientific organization affiliated with the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University.

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Inventory

CNHP’s biologists work throughout Colorado to document our critical biological resources. We conduct inventories for rare animals, plants, wetlands, riparian areas, and plant communities at the scale of a single parcel all the way to an entire County. By identifying and describing the locations of Colorado’s rarest species and habitats, this work is critical for supporting conservation activities statewide. Information from these projects has been instrumental in some of Colorado’s biggest conservation successes over the past 30 years, such as the Mountains-to-Plains Project in Larimer County and the enlargement of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Monitoring

CNHP is a leader in monitoring the status of Colorado’s rare species and plant communities. CNHP formed a partnership with the Colorado Division of Wildlife in 1999 to monitor known breeding sites and to survey locations throughout Colorado for new populations of the state endangered Boreal Toad. Other ongoing monitoring projects involve the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse, Pawnee Montane Skipper, noxious weeds, several rare plant species, and the impacts of grazing and management on prairie. CNHP’s monitoring efforts provide information and feedback that are critical for the management of our natural heritage resources throughout the state.

Research

CNHP’s scientists and professionals conduct research projects, and also provide information and technical expertise to support other scientific research. CNHP scientists have published numerous papers in journals, including the description of a newly discovered plant species in 2008. In partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, CNHP has developed rigorous bio-assessment tools to gauge wetland condition across the state of Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountains. These assessments will provide the first statistically defensible, landscape-scale estimate of wetland condition in major river basins in Colorado. The tools are also being tested across state boundaries in a regional scale project in collaboration with Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. CNHP supports research on taxonomy, classification, ecology, conservation genetics, and restoration ecology through collaborations with scientists and agencies throughout Colorado and beyond.

Conservation Planning/Spatial Analysis

CNHP collaborates with many partners to put our information resources to work in conserving Colorado’s biodiversity. With The Nature Conservancy we have developed Colorado’s Biodiversity Scorecard, giving us a comprehensive overview of the status of our biological wealth for the first time ever. CNHP is using species distribution modeling to refine and economize efforts to search for previously unknown populations. We support regional planning needs by analyzing data and writing science-based management plans. As one of five pilot states in establishing Landscope America (www.landscope.org), CNHP has helped to develop this conservation guide to America’s natural places. We are a partner in Colorado’s Rare Plant Conservation Initiative to save Colorado’s wildflowers.

Vegetation Classification and Ecological Systems

CNHP ecologists are helping to identify, define, and map Colorado’s natural communities and ecological systems statewide. CNHP has also pioneered techniques for assessing the biodiversity status of ecological system patches. Wetland condition assessment tools in development by CNHP including Floristic Quality Assessment, Vegetation Index of Biotic Integrity, and Ecological Integrity Assessment are helping to identify conservation priorities and opportunities throughout Colorado.

Data Sharing and Distribution

As Colorado’s only comprehensive source of information on Colorado’s rare species and their habitats, CNHP supports conservation efforts by maintaining and providing data. In this way, we truly work closely with stakeholders in the federal, state, local, and private sectors, as well as with academic researchers, to support conservation management, research, acquisition, and policy. We use advanced database tools such as the Biodiversity Tracking and Conservation System (BIOTICS) Statewide Database to maintain and share these data.

Environmental Review

CNHP’s environmental review services meet the information needs for evaluating projects for potential impacts to rare species and their habitats. Our environmental review clientele includes landowners, consulting firms, local planning departments, and nonprofits that use CNHP data to inform decisions on development and management. Guidance from CNHP data and expertise are needed support development and planning activities involving wind energy, pipelines, roads, growth management, easement purchase, and numerous other activities.