Colorado exploration

Before I arrived to my first day at the Colorado State Office I created goals for the CLM internship that I hoped to accomplish before the end of my 6 months. The first, and by far the easiest, was seeing all I could of Colorado. So far I have gained more than just a collection of places, but a knowledge of the people I work with as well.  After hours, amounting to days, of driving in a car with my crew this season, I have a new appreciation for reggae music, the lifetimes worth of unbelievable stories Carol (my mentor) has lived, and how much knowledge can be gleaned while flying down the I-70 through the Southern Rockies in a government issued Ford Explorer.

I will chronicle my past month adventures and gained knowledge by time since I last posted, so I can attempt to keep everything straight.

One of our many drives. Near Pagosa Springs

After monitoring for Astragalus debequaeus in May, mostly near the Roan Plateau, we went back slightly south to the little known town of Delta (pop. 8,720). Here, is where we got the pleasure of working with the fine folks at the Uncompahgre Field Office. Here, is also where we were finally able to work with Sclerocactus glaucus and see it in bloom! (not pictured here).

This scavenger hunt under, between, and around any bush or blade of Pleuraphis jamesii was a test of your yoga forward fold pose and ability to maintain a keen eye. This plant, however, somehow managed to steal my heart: much like me it exists in arid environments and is, more so than myself, fighting the long and hard fight of existing in such a place.

After our stints heading west from The BLM Colorado Office in Lakewood we took a turn south to the 4-corners region of the state.

Our first stop was Pagosa Springs to look at Ipomopsis polyantha to assist with a project that the Tres Rios BLM District Office is working on with the plant. To shorten the story, we ended up spending a short period of time with an interdisciplinary group including a BLM ecologist, a US Fish and Wildlife botanist, a Forest Service employee, a private rancher and two people from an energy company that oversees pipelines that passed through the area. I realized while listening to the ways which these these entities interact it is easy to oversimplify the management of lands- which involves the juggling of species habitat, land use, and the multiple-scales of the various activities across a landscape. Needless to say, it was a very insightful day learning about how agencies, private citizens, and companies work together towards the protection of plants.

I was also very excited to be introduced to Pagosa Springs. Here you can walk next to the San Juan River and see geothermic sulfur water running from streams dotting the sides of the river and pooling under bridges. More amazing was that all this was two blocks from a line of hotels with dozens of additional natural baths looking onto the river. I hope to return to this riverside oasis on my time off so that I can spend a few days soaking and lounging around the town.

Just a little side trip to see Mesa Verde. Don’t mind if I do.

After checking out Oreocarya revealii on a plot a stone throws away from some petroglyphs (also not pictured), we then moved on to search for Lupinus crassus with some of our newly acquired friends from Montrose. We had a fine time walking in what seemed like a portal back into my old stomping grounds in Nevada, through lands characterized by Pinyon and Juniper trees.

On to Penstemon grahamii! The week after we left the 4-corners area, we thought we would try and hit every county in Colorado that bordered Utah, in a month, so we headed to the north western corner of Colorado near the Uinta Basin. Near Rangley we, indeed found some P. grahamii along with P. scariosus var. albifluvis.

I think this was the most enlightening trip so far. These two species, I learned, are at the center of a legal battle that dates back to 2011, with advocacy groups seeking to list the species for protection while the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been working on a means of protecting the species in a Conservation Agreement between private citizens, the state of Utah, BLM district Offices, and Counties in Utah. It is an interesting case study because of the nuances of the situation, and is another case in which land management ought not be oversimplified. Both species have a large proportion of their population on private land, meaning that protecting the plant solely on public lands will not address the whole issue. However, listing species has, in the past, been the best way of providing the greatest protection to species that are seen as at risk. There had been an attempt to list this species before, but ultimately USFWS opted not to list it. Now, however, after a lawsuit in 2015, advocacy groups would like it to be considered again. This step, although seemingly helpful, would be opposed to the Conservation Agreement, in which, the entities involved are trying to avoid listing the species. In observing the current situation I understand the perspectives of the many groups involved and find it stimulating to learn the ways in which these groups work together, how the system has functioned historically, and how it is changing in a modern context. I am eager to see how the situation evolves in coming years.

You can read more of the agreement here:

https://www.fws.gov/mountainprairie/species/plants/2utahbeardtongues/Penstemon_Conservation_Agreement_2014Jul22_final_signed.pdf

You can read more about the lawsuit here:

http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/1%20-%202015.03.26%20-%20Complaint.pdf

Hello beautiful. P. scariosus var. albifluvis

On our trek up to find a new plot of P. scariosus

The next part of my journey takes me to The Chicago Botanical Gardens in the town where my family has its roots. I am excited to be able to visit family and, at the same time, engage with like-minded people on the program that allows me to visit such special places…and with an opportunity to see my parents and a good friend while there, there is a lot to look forward to!

 

Taryn

Colorado State Office, BLM

Lakewood, CO

Snow in April

Image

The thousand mile trek from Reno, Nevada to Denver, Colorado felt like the blink of an eye, but passing through the White River National Forest made the time stand still by its beauty, also probably because driving a 15′ truck while pulling a car up 10,000′ passes almost literally brought us to a standstill. Aspens on the left and right and snow still on the ground, it was like a right of passage into the beautiful capital of Denver.

Looking out into our new home

The first week of my first CLM internship was filled with the elusive potential for computer access and many informative scientific papers. One that stood out was called “Evaluating approaches to the Conservation of Rare and Endangered Plants” which started off with a quote from Nirvana:

“Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours, don’t be late”

and then proceeded to discuss the general currently accepted process behind setting up a rare and endangered plant evaluation, which I see echoed in the past and present work of my mentor, Carol Dawson.

I also spent the week being brought up to date on the plants that Carol and past interns have worked on. Including 9 threatened and 3 candidate species, one of which we monitored my second week.

Now on to the fun stuff!

Since 2011 Astragalus debequaeus has been listed as a threatened species, is found near the Roan Plateau, and is the first species that we surveyed for.

I can already tell that I am going to like field work here in Colorado. Not only was I able to see hundreds of million year old formations, but also I met up with the Ecologists that worked out of the Silt and Grand Junction field offices as well as the director of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

We spent our field days scrambling along the lose shale foothills of the Roan plateau surveying for Astragalus debequaeus. At one point we were looking for more plots when we also stumbled upon Sclerocactus glaucus and Astragalus naturitensis as well. Although these were not our intended targets per say (I am learning that this geologic area is as Dr. Dawson would say “chock a block full” of rare species) it was nice to see what we would be looking for in the future.

Sclerocactus was blooming its dainty pink flowers and so was Echinocereus triglochidiatus:

Echinocereus triglochidiatus

After a full day it was nice to come back to Silt and peer down at the tame but powerful Colorado River. I have grown up in a state (Arizona) where the Colorado River not only plays a part in our everyday life as a source of drinking water and is the border of our western edge, but is also a part of history, something I learned and heard about as a kid. I realized I have actually not spent too much time observing it and I felt an odd connection to home as I watched the sun set and the swallows catch their pray and return to their mud nests.

The Colorado River from our hotel in Silt

Next week we survey again!

Tell then,

 

Taryn

Colorado State Office

Lakewood Colorado