Conservation partnership protects endangered wildflower in Montrose
DENVER – The Colorado Natural Areas Program, private ranchers, The Nature Conservancy and other groups are protecting a critical population of a federally endangered wildflower, clay-loving wild buckwheat.The Natural Areas Program purchased 43 acres from Harold and Kathleen Wacker of Montrose, using funds from the Colorado lottery and The Nature Conservancy, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service grant, and a statewide fundraising effort led by the Center for Native Ecosystems and the Colorado Native Plant Society.The Natural Areas Program is working with the Wackers, The Nature Conservancy and other groups to manage the land as a designated state natural area for the preservation of the buckwheat and the adobe hills habitat on which it is found.Clay-loving wild buckwheat grows only in Colorado at 16 known locations in Montrose and Delta counties, and was designated an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in 1984. The protection of the plants addresses the goals in the clay-loving wild buckwheat federal recovery plan.Peggy Lyon, Colorado Natural Heritage Program botanist, describes the Wacker Ranch population of the buckwheat as “one of the best in the world, and very important for the survival of the species.”The Wackers are longtime Montrose ranchers. In early 2006, the Wackers decided to sell the property and worked with conservation groups to secure a buyer to carry on their tradition of caring for the land and the rare plant.”We felt if some action wasn’t taken we really were looking at the potential for losing an entire species” said Dave Gann, Western Colorado program director of The Nature Conservancy.”This is a great example of a cooperative, noncontroversial way of addressing development issues and conservation on the Western Slope” said Natural Areas Program manager Rob Billerbeck. “The protection of the Wacker Ranch has shown that conservation can be a win-win for all groups involved if government agencies, nonprofit groups and private landowners work cooperatively with common goals in mind.”The conservation project has inspired a statewide rare plant conservation initiative to bring government agencies, nonprofits and private landowners together to protect Colorado’s endangered wildflowers. Seventy-five percent of Colorado’s imperiled species are plants, and the state is home to many rare wildflowers that grow nowhere else in the world.For more information, call Brian Kurzel, Colorado Natural Areas program coordinator, at (303) 548-8180 or Dave Gann at (970) 252-0034.
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