Conservation in Colorado: First of its kind report released

Partners announce completion of “The State of Colorado’s Biodiversity Report”

BOULDER, CO | December 03, 2012

For the first time in Colorado, scientists and land managers have access to a comprehensive report that measures conservation progress over more than 40 years. The Nature Conservancy and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program at Colorado State University are proud to announce the completion of the “The State of Colorado’s Biodiversity” report, which ranks the state’s natural heritage as “in relatively good condition” or “restorable.” The report identifies significant progress on many plant and animal species. But in other cases, there are significant challenges. 

“This is the centerpiece report card on Colorado’s lands, plants and animals,” says Chris Pague, the Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist in Colorado. “The information in this report illustrates how well the public and private sectors have done and points land managers, agencies, organizations, and people to where we need to redouble our efforts.”

The report was completed using the Colorado Natural Heritage Program’s “scorecard” method. This method involves assembling and analyzing data to evaluate conservation status of lands, animals and plants under three broad categories: 1) rarity 2) threats; and 3) protection.

“This kind of reporting can positively impact Colorado in ways we have not seen before,” said David Anderson from the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. “This report will be used as a guide to help reset conservation priorities.”

Key findings:

  • Colorado’s major habitat types are all important for at-risk species and are relatively intact with at least 70% scoring good or very good based on size, condition, and the surrounding conditions.
  • 40% of all fish and amphibians are inadequately conserved, an indicator of the condition of Colorado’s streams, rivers, and wetlands.
  • Colorado’s prairies are the most highly altered and least protected natural systems and support the most at-risk animals.
  • Many of our rarest plants are effectively conserved (significant progress); many others are at risk in the path of energy and urban development
  • Lower elevation forests, pinon-juniper and ponderosa pine, are in the poorest condition, are significantly under-conserved and present a high risk of severe fire.

Public and private efforts have greatly improved many plant and wildlife populations and their homes. Key contributions come from state agencies, federal agencies, land trusts, and many private landowners. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, the State Land Board, federal land management agencies, the Rare Plant Conservation Initiative, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and Colorado’s land trusts are particularly notable organizations. In addition, many private landowners have placed conservation easements on hundreds of thousands of acres.

Partners across the State are expressing gratitude for this report:

“The type of information this report contains has been invaluable to the Gates Family Foundation,” noted Tom Gougeon, President of the Gates Family Foundation. “We have been investors in conservation in Colorado for decades. But until recently, it has been hard to find data that allows the conservation community to keep score in any comprehensive fashion. This data has played a central role in our decision to increase our investment in conservation of Colorado’s grasslands and management and protection of Colorado’s rivers and streams.”

Tammy VerCauteren, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory states: “This report tells us we’re doing a good job of conserving birds thanks to private and public land managers. Through cooperative partnerships we can keep moving the conservation needle forward so Coloradoans and people throughout the West enjoy beautiful birds for generations to come.”

The Nature Conservancy developed the concept, made final reviews and funded the Conservation Measurements Report. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program provided the guidance and conducted the research. The findings create a formal benchmark for determining the degree to which Colorado’s natural diversity will remain for our children. For a more expansive description of the report findings, click here and to access the complete report, click here.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Tracey Stone
The Nature Conservancy in Colorado


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