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Center for Conservation Science & Strategy

Colorado Measures of Conservation Status and Success

Story Highlights
  • Upcoming report provides, for the first time, information on conservation progress in Colorado.
  • Findings indicate water and prairie systems are the most greatly altered and in need of protection.
The rate of land protected in Colorado has increased dramatically, in a large part due to progressive tax laws, the growth of conservation land trusts, and the establishment of conservation funding through Great Outdoors Colorado.

The Nature Conservancy in Colorado and a key partner, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, are nearing completion of an extensive assessment of the conservation status and progress of Colorado’s natural heritage. The data system and assessment provide, for the first time, a statewide picture of conservation progress. Examining the results of this study will allow the people of Colorado to reflect on the past present and future of conservation in the state, refining priorities for action. In these times of extremely tight resources, an examination of our progress and strategies may be more needed than ever. 

The magnificent natural resources of Colorado provide benefits to residents and visitors alike. We hope to provide some fundamental information that can be used as an accountability check. Key questions addressed in this report will be:

  • Are we conserving what we say is important?
  • Are we acting in a timely manner?
  • How confident are we that our diversity will be here for our grandchildren (and theirs)?
  • How much more is needed to achieve success? And where?

To begin assessing these important questions we divide the assessment into three topics that form the most important areas of conservation measures:

1. Status of indicator species and freshwater and terrestrial habitats,

2. current impacts to our species and systems and the projected trends, and

3. the degree to which these systems and species are protected in Colorado.   

Key Findings

The findings of the first conservation measures report for Colorado are:


  • The component parts of Colorado’s natural heritage are in relatively good condition or restorable.
  • Great progress on many plant and animal species; much to be done; now we can refine our strategy and know where to celebrate.
  • Species in barrens, grasslands, shrublands and wetlands/streams are in most need
  • Lower elevation lands (prairie) and waters are most highly altered
  • < 1/3 of streams and rivers in good condition – even fewer protected.
  • The dominant threats are: residential development, oil and gas development, and fire regime departure – estimated 2,640,000 ac in 30 years just for development.
  • Almost all threats are increasing and slowly to moderately
  • The prairie is the least protected region (~ 7-10% permanent).
  • Management effectiveness of some key public lands is insecure.

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