Winter 2017: Conserving Colorado’s Native Plants by Conserving Colorado’s Habitats by Linda Smith

Conserve Colorado’s Native Plants by Conserving Colorado’s Habitats

By Linda Smith, Member of the CoNPS Conservation Committee

So …. conserving habitats ? Where, and how, can CoNPS fit into this? We don’t have a paid staff member or lobbyist roaming the halls of Capitol buildings in Denver or Washington DC, advocating for the native plants or habitats of Colorado. However, what we do have are 1,000+ gung-ho members who have a passion for the great outdoors, the wide open spaces, botanizing at all levels, amateur through professional, hiking, studying and passing along our expertise and interest to grandkids, friends and peers. That’s why we’re members of CoNPS, “Dedicated to furthering the knowledge and appreciation … of native plants ….of Colorado through education…..,” with our multitude of chapter programs, field trips and workshops.

But what about the rest of our Mission ? “Dedicated to furthering the knowledge, appreciation and conservation of native plants and habitats of Colorado through education, stewardship and advocacy.”

In order to protect and conserve all these native plants, their habitats have to be protected. If the habitats disappear, they disappear. This is where our 1,000+ membership comes in handy, especially right about now, when public lands need us the most. One of the best ways we can help keep the habitats and native plants safe is by joining efforts with the various governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that DO have paid staff and/or lobbyists, and letting our voices be heard, and our signatures have meaning, as individuals, and as members of CoNPS.

Continuing on from Jessica Smith’s Conservation Corner in the Spring 2016 issue of Aquilegia, “Agencies and Organizations in Colorado Conserving Native Plants,” there are quite a few other organizations in Colorado that aren’t specifically about conserving native plants, but that do work extremely hard to conserve and provide stewardship for Colorado habitats. Some of these organizations were represented at the 2016 Colorado Wilderness Gathering in Buena Vista on November 12 and 13 last fall that Jan and Charlie Turner attended, as well as a few other CoNPS members and myself.

It was a “two-day gathering for public land conservation advocates to learn and discuss Colorado wildlands issues, brainstorm advocacy and grassroots strategies, and celebrate past successes while planning for future conservation efforts…”. Some of our big ‘take-aways’ from the gathering were:

  • Looming challenges during the next few years:
  • Increased energy extraction from public lands
  • Likely less opportunity to protect through congressional designations but perhaps more opportunities to focus on land management planning
  • Climate change may go unaddressed
  • Public land grabs
  • Weakening of existing land protections
  • Repeal or weakening of antiquities act
  • Loss of land and water conservation funding
  • Attacks on bedrock environmental laws.
  • During the next few years, public lands will need:
  • Grassroots organizing close to home, holding the ground, and mounting a vigorous defense if necessary.
  • Communication – figuring out the message – have 3-4 good points. Editorials are a good start. Editorial endorsement of a bill matters to Congress. Talk to your neighbors, convince them that land preservation is a good thing. Have your message ready.
  • An educated citizenry involved in local elections – making sure all the candidates are well informed on public lands issues. County commissioners are VERY important. Get to know them. Make sure they know you. Poll results mean a lot to politicians. Reach out beyond the choir; reach out to the kids.
  • Collaboration and coordination– figuring out your allies and opposition; Show up at Corey Gardener’s public meetings, ask about public lands, find out what he supports (go as an individual, but take 20 people with you who can clap ? when you speak.)
  • Compromise – may have to give up some things in order to get the most important parts. Case in point – ATVs (this group can also become allies in the big picture)
  • Persistence and patience – it took 17 years to get the Wilderness Act finalized, 15 years for the Colorado Wilderness Bill. It is important for conservationists and advocates to engage in every step of the planning process.
  • We learned from John Whitney, Regional Director of the Four Corners Region for the office of Senator Michael Bennet, that, as individuals, even though signing our names to computer-generated letters and/or petitions is very important and much needed, it’s even better to write our own personalized letter, which will have more of an impact, and gets ‘to the desk’ better than a form letter.
  • As an organization, when some comment letters/petitions are being submitted, it’s important to have signatures from a broad variety of entities. CoNPS needs to get in the ‘loop’ so we can be advised when other organizations need us to sign on.
  • We’re not the only one to put on Bio-blitzes in Colorado. Several of these organizations have had bio-blitzes, and they could use our help and expertise.
  • Future areas for preservation need to be identified and inventoried. These organizations, when looking at new areas to preserve, try to save the areas with the highest biodiversity, including populations of rare plants. Areas that are already designated as Wilderness need stewardship and ‘feet on the ground’ monitoring. Possible volunteer opportunities? We came away feeling like CoNPS can really help with these processes. We just need to reach out to them, and let them know we may have the volunteers. Although none of the organizations’ primary missions specify saving native plants, if they save the land, they save the plants! Helping them to support their mission will, in the end, support us in our mission.

Public lands need passionate, dedicated advocates and supporters to be their champions. Can CoNPS build a network of advocates to help conserve Colorado’s habitats? I think we can fit into this pretty well.

In the near future, we will be inviting representatives of some of these organizations, and also from some the agencies listed in Jessica’s article last spring, to write articles for upcoming columns of “Conservation Corner”, so we can all become more familiar with their missions, what their plans are for the future, and how they see a role for our members in the future of native plants within their organizations.

Here is a bit of information about some of these organizations, and how we, as individuals and members, can help them preserve the native plant habitats of Colorado right now:

The Wilderness Society: “…to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places.” The society is nationwide, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., and two regional offices in Colorado (Denver and Durango), among many other regional offices across the country. One way to get involved is their “Make your voices heard: sign up for wild alert” at https://e-activist.com/page/2063/data/1 . On the same site, you can sign up to get BLM Action Center Updates.

Great Old Broads for Wilderness, based in Durango, Colorado, with eleven chapters in Colorado, 36 chapters across the country. This is a national grassroots organization, consisting of women and men, of all ages, “that engages and inspires activism to preserve and protect wilderness and wild lands.” They have a very good webpage for Advocacy Resources, including suggestions for letter writing: http://www.greatoldbroads.org/advocacy-resources/

Wilderness Workshop “The conservation watchdog of the White River National Forest and adjacent federal public lands.” “Take Action” page at: http://www.wildernessworkshop.org/action/

Conservation Colorado (formerly Colorado Environmental Coalition) This group has offered to help guide our members through the comment letter-writing process. We’ll find out more information and get back to you. Take Action Page: http://conservationco.org/take-action-for-colorado/#/

Wild Connections. “Wild Connections works to identify, protect and restore lands of central Colorado to ensure the survival of native species and ecological richness.” One of their main concerns is the fragmentation of wild lands. They have a very informative newsletter online right now: http://www.wildconnections.org/images/LANDSCAPES_2016-DecWeb.pdf

Colorado Mountain Club – Their Stewardship Team is heavily involved in hosting volunteer events for the monitoring, restoration, removal of invasive species, fuel management and fire restoration on public lands. They also have a terrific Public Lands Management webpage that CoNPS may strive to duplicate to a degree: https://www.cmc.org/Conservation/PublicLands.aspx

To see the powerpoint and notes from the 2017 Colorado Wilderness Gathering, please see:  https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5_EWtiHz17NN0h1VzNfME5rUlU

If you’d like to join the CoNPS Conservation Committee, or have questions or suggestions, please contact Mo Ewing at bayardewing@gmail.com. In the very near future we will be updating our “Conservation” web page with links to all the above organizations and others, and will provide resources and information about current issues to help our members advocate for Colorado’s native plants and their habitats.