Colorado Parks and Wildlife celebrates 40 years of the Colorado Natural Areas Program
By Rebecca Ferrell
Colorado Parks and Wildlife celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Colorado Natural Areas Program in 2017. This statewide program recognizes and works to conserve locations that have one or more unique natural features important to Colorado. Natural areas are found on both public or private lands and are officially designated through voluntary conservation agreements with landowners.
“I like to say that CNAP is a small program with a big mission,” said Raquel Wertsbaugh, Colorado Natural Areas Program Coordinator. “I’m thankful that these incredibly special places in our state are supported by CNAP not only to ensure the longevity of the natural features themselves but for future generations to learn from and be inspired by.”
CNAP was established by statute in 1977. The mission of the program is to identify, evaluate, and support the protection of specific examples of natural features and phenomena as enduring resources for present and future generations through a statewide system of Designated Natural Areas. Over 250 rare, threatened or endangered plant and animal species are cooperatively protected at nearly 100 designated sites in Colorado. Additionally, several significant geologic and fossil resources are highlighted and protected under the CNAP mission.
This unique conservation program relies on the help of landowners and approximately 70 volunteer stewards that monitor and report on more than 177,000 acres. CNAP is guided by a seven-member Governor-appointed advisory council. CNAP works with various partners to help strike a balance between conservation and the public and private use of designated areas.
“It really is a gift to be a volunteer steward, because you develop a relationship with the landscape,” said Dina Clark, volunteer steward and Colorado Natural Areas Council member. “You get to take care of something in a special way that’s different from anything else you care for. You’re able to see changes from year to year, watch a site age and change and see new things you haven’t seen before. And there’s such value in being able to contribute to the big picture of preservation in Colorado.”
Two new sites were recently approved for designation. Corral Bluffs Natural Area in El Paso County was designated for its world-class paleontological features. The Pagosa Skyrocket Natural Area in Archuleta County has been designated to help protect and assist in the recovery of the federally endangered Pagosa skyrocket and its habitat.
“I appreciate CNAP in many ways but mainly because it is a unique State program whose priority is to protect lands that support Colorado’s biodiversity and geological/paleontological features for future generations,” said Denise Culver, a partner from the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and Colorado Natural Areas Council member. “CNAP applies scientific data to prioritize its efforts, and expertly engages and involves volunteers to ensure that these Colorado gems will be monitored and protected forever. This is satisfying both as an ecologist and a citizen of Colorado.”
More information on the program and its 40-year history of CNAP can be found at http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/CNAP.aspx.