>
Colorado FWCO
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Colorado Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office

PO Box 25486, DFC | Denver, CO 80225
Phone: (303) 236-4216

About Our Office

Latest Highlight | National Fish Passage Program | Invasive Species | Forestry and Wildland Fuels Management | Recovery & Conservation | Hunting & Fishing Opportunities | Cultural Resources | Publications | Newsletters | Staff & Contact Information | Important Links | Open / Close All

About Us

(left) photo of a group riding ATVs, (top right) photo of a stream, (bottom right) photo of a toad. Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS.

The Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office is an essential part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program. We work cooperatively with the Department of Defense, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, USFWS National Refuge System and various state agencies to provide management of fish, wildlife and forest resources for the mountain-prairie region. Together with our partners, we are involved in natural resource management projects across the state of Colorado to accomplish restoration and conservation actions for Federal and State protected and trust species. Our recovery efforts include stream restoration, invasive species control, fisheries surveys, identification of cultural resources and implementing actions such as controlled burns to achieve healthy forests. Due to the diverse conservation projects of this office, we have staff located at the following locations:

  • Mountain-Prairie Regional Office, Lakewood, CO
  • Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, CO
  • U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Pueblo Chemical Army Depot, Pueblo, CO
  • F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, WY
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • McConnell Air Force Base, Wichita, KS


Latest Highlight »

« Back to the top

Prescribed Burn at Academy Protects Rare Plant Species

Split photo of firefighters conducting a controlled burn at the US Air Force Academy. Credit: USFWS.

Split photo of firefighters conducting a controlled burn at the US Air Force Academy. Credit: USFWS.

A controlled burn was planned at the US Air Force Academy in order to enhance the growth of a small patch of Plains Ironweed in that area. This native perennial is a state-protected plant that has only two known populations in the state of Colorado. In partnership with the Academy, the burn was successful in removing invasive Smooth Brome in order to enhance growth. To read more about the controlled burn, click here! (7MB PDF)

 


National Fish Passage Program »


« Back to the top

Perched culvert at Baca National Wildlife Refuge (upper).  Improperly functioning diversion dam on the St. Vrain River (lower). Credit: USFWS.

Perched culvert at Baca National Wildlife Refuge (upper). Improperly functioning diversion dam on the St. Vrain River (lower). Credit: USFWS.

The National Fish Passage Program is a voluntary, non-regulatory effort that provides assistance to remove or bypass barriers that impede fish movement to restore fish populations. Since the program began in 1999, NFPP has made significant progress in accomplishing their goal by removing 950 barriers, reopened 15,500 miles of river and 82,000 acres of wetlands. Maintaining and restoring connectivity between different aquatic ecosystems is considered significant conservation work by the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (CO FWCO).

The CO FWCO works with partners and the National Fish Passage Program to increase river connectivity, improve water quality and sediment management. By restoring connectivity and reducing habitat fragmentation, this allows the movement and populations of fish to increase. Specific projects to reestablish healthy fish populations include removal of culverts in Crestone Creek on Baca National Wildlife Refuge to benefit Rio Grande chub and sucker, working with flood damaged diversion dams in the St. Vrain River and restoration of Tabequache Creek in the San Miguel drainage.

Click on the links below to learn more about the National Fish Passage Program:
FAC – National Fish Passage Program
National Fish Passage Program (11.6MB PDF)


Invasive Species »

« Back to the top

Credit: USFWS.

Native tall grass prairie (big bluestem)  Credit:  Max Canestorp

The Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office works on several Department of Defense military installations across the states of Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming. Under the Sikes Act and consistent with their mission, military bases are required to implement natural resource management on installation lands. Our biologists work with military personnel and other cooperators to implement natural resource management goals including control of invasive species.

Control and management of invasive species is accomplished using modern resource management methods. Several complementary methods may be implemented in an overall strategy to protect ecosystems and aid in their recovery. Soil erosion and noxious weeds are significant natural resource management issues many installations.  Revegetation and soil stabilization procedures, which emphasize the use of native species, have been developed for site protection and habitat restoration projects.  Over twenty state-listed noxious weeds are controlled with an Integrated Weed Management approach utilizing a combination of herbicides, biological control, mechanical control, and native vegetation protection.


Ips Pine Engraver Beetle
The Ips beetle continues to be a problem for our forests due to their negative effects on our trees. As the beetles tunnel through the tree, it leaves behind a residue that infects and eventually kills the tree. These critters have been particularly challenging over the past several years due to drought conditions in which they thrive. Although this species produces multiple generations annually, various proactive measures are taking place to prevent further destruction.

  • Diane Strohm is currently preparing for approximately 200 high-risk or high-profile trees to be sprayed in order to prevent beetle attack on the USAFA.
  • Steve Wallace also played a major role in cutting and de-barking beetle infested trees.
  • CO FWCO staff administer tree thinning and brush removal in order to prevent the beetles from easily migrating from one tree to the next.
  • Steve Wallace and a local contractor conducts field surveys to seek out infested trees by the Ips beetle, twig beetle, dwarf mistletoe, and other forest health pests.


Forestry and Wildland Fuels Management »

« Back to the top

Healthy, thinned park-like forests in Pine Valley on the Academy. Credit: USFWS.

Healthy, thinned park-like forests in Pine Valley on the Academy . Credit: USFWS.

Healthy forests are resistant to extensive mortality such as insect epidemics and unnaturally catastrophic wildfires. Prolonged drought conditions and overgrown vegetation have placed inordinate stress on our forests. Actively managing forests enhances tree health and vigor, critical to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and aesthetic quality. 

Management is integral to preserving the longevity and beauty of the forests that form the backdrop of the Air Force Academy and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station (CMAFS). Most of this landscape is a ponderosa pine forest. This fire-adapted ecosystem would have historically incurred periodic low-intensity wildfires that maintained an open park-like condition by taking out many smaller trees that had established since the last fire.  Older pines with thick bark could withstand low-intensity surface fires which occurred approximately every 10-20 years.  Scattered young trees would survive, growing more fire resistant and contributing to a multi-aged structure of a healthy, natural ponderosa pine forest. 

Photo of a bulldozer. Credit: USFWS.

Credit: USFWS.

Because wildfires have been actively suppressed over the past century, much of the Front Range forest has become unnaturally dense, with many overtopped and suppressed trees.  Douglas-fir, a tree that is prolific at higher elevation moister sites, has become plentiful in the understory of pine forests.  Fir tends to have thick, pendulous crowns.  Along with dense smaller pines, this contributes to a heavy fuel loading that can easily channel flames into the main tree canopy, resulting in a devastating crown fire that travels quickly through the forest and causes widespread tree mortality.

Forest thinning removes unhealthy, suppressed trees and reduces overall tree density to a level that promotes natural fire resistance.  It also reduces tree competition below a threshold at which trees have a better chance to fend off bark beetles.  Thinning is an important long-term strategy to maintaining forest health.  The Academy thins up to 150 acres annually.

The 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire is a compelling example of an unnaturally catastrophic wildfire. Severely burned portions of this fire on extremely steep terrain will take decades to recover, if ever.  The 2013 Black Forest Fire was the most damaging fire in Colorado in terms of monetary losses, but was fortunately located on more forgiving, gentle terrain that will likely be eventually restored to a healthy ecosystem.  

Credit: USFWS.

Waldo Canyon Fire as it approaches the Academy in June, 2012. Credit: USFWS.

We are committed to preventing such a calamitous wildfire, to the extent possible.  Collaborating with adjacent landowners and land management agencies across the entire southern Front Range is critical to reducing fire risk.  The Academy has been an active participant in recent regional planning efforts, including the Upper Monument Creek Forest Restoration Initiative which analyzed forest management and fuels reduction activities on the Pike National Forest, adjacent to the Academy and Farish Recreation Area.  Complementary fuels treatment projects along our joint boundary will greatly enhance effectiveness and improve forest and watershed resiliency across the entire landscape.  

USAF Wildland Fire Center
The US Air Force Wildland Fire Center (WFC) was established following the Waldo Canyon Fire to coordinate wildfire programs on military installations across the country.  The WFC is designed to provide support and guidance in wildfire planning, fuels reductions operations, fire suppression, training, etc.  A Zone Fire Management Officer (Shelly Crook) will oversee fire programs on numerous installations, including CMAFS and the Academy.  There are plans to stage a six-person fire module at the latter in the near future.  Sponsored by the WFC, this crew will provide fuel hazard reduction and wildfire suppression support as needed to installations across approximately 20 states. 

Wildland Fuels Reduction
Wildfire behavior is affected by three factors: weather, topography and fuels. Since we can only influence the latter, our objective is to reduce wildland fuel hazard in strategic locations. 

Credit: USFWS.

Credit: USFWS.

One of the Front Range’s most hazardous vegetation types is Gambel oak.  This highly flammable species experienced significant dieback in 2004 due to intense drought conditions, a late frost, and attack by an oak borer beetle.  This dieback greatly exacerbates the fuel hazard of this shrub, which often serves as a ladder fuel around trees.  Although oak resprouts after cutting, it will take years to achieve the fuel hazard level prior to initial treatment, and will provide temporary improved wildlife browse with more succulent, younger stems.  Since oak is overrepresented on the landscape, reduction will contribute towards restoration of a more resilient and healthy landscape.

Strategic fuelbreaks are key to reducing woody fuel loadings, and enhancing firefighter access and safety.  Recent focus on the Academy and CMAFS has been along boundaries, roads and trails that could be accessed by firefighting equipment.  Breaking up fuel continuity in extensive areas of oak affords the opportunity to decrease wildfire rate of spread.  The Academy reduces fuels on approximately 70 acres annually; up to 125 acres in several years of particularly high fire danger.  CMAFS recently cut Gambel oak across key areas of the installation to mitigate fuel hazard.

Credit: USFWS.

Boy Scout volunteers moving firewood pile from a Scout Hut . Credit: USFWS.

Fuel reduction in close proximity to buildings and other infrastructures is especially critical in affording the opportunity to save these assets in the event of a wildfire.  The Academy has facilitated several such projects, including clearing of brush, dead trees, and downed limbs around the historic Scout Huts on Community Center Drive.  This also provided an opportunity to teach the importance of clearing defensible space around structures to Boy Scout volunteers, who assisted on this project.   

Further information on managing for defensible space can be found at http://static.colostate.edu/client-files/csfs/pdfs/FIRE2012_1_DspaceQuickGuide.pdf

Prescribed Fire
The Academy has employed prescribed burning to eliminate slash piles that result from forest management operations.  We anticipate additional piles in the near future from fuel clearing in inaccessible areas.

Credit: USFWS.

Firefighters conducting a controlled burn at the US Air Force Academy. Credit: USFWS.

The Academy conducted its first broadcast burn in over a decade in 2013.  The objective was to enhance a rare plant (Plains ironweed) by knocking back competing smooth brome grass.  Since ironweed is found in only three locations in Colorado, this is important to maintain biodiversity.  We were unable to repeat this burn in 2014 due to a narrow burning window, which addresses both weather parameters and plant phenology to ensure that the ironweed is not damaged.  This prescribed fire was successfully repeated in 2015.  We plan to implement this burn for several years to effectively battle the brome grass.

The Academy intends to expand our prescribed burn program to additional areas in the near future, primarily to enhance rangeland and wildlife habitat.  It is difficult at present to employ prescribed fire on a broadcast basis to reduce woody fuels, since woody brush is too dense to perform this safely.  We generally opt for mechanical means to restore forests to a more open condition, after which we hope to utilize prescribed burning in portions of our forests to maintain forest health.

Credit: USFWS.

Recently established aspen regeneration unit at Farish Credit: USFWS.

Reforestation

Approximately 1,000 seedlings are planted annually on the Academy, with a focus on disturbed areas such as burn scars from recent small fires.  A seedbank with tree seed sufficient to plant over one million seedlings is stored at the USFS Bessey Nursery in Nebraska.  This could prove critical in the event of a devastating wildfire.  The Academy collects seed during bumper crop years from high quality trees at varying elevations to ensure genetically-adapted healthy seedlings for future reforestation needs.  A recent collection in 2015 filled a high-elevation ponderosa pine seed niche that had been lacking.  Since ponderosa pine only produces bumper cone crops every three to seven years, collection is very important when conditions are conducive.  Our cone collection program and seedbank represent a proactive investment in the future of our landscape. 

A series of naturally-regenerated aspen units have been successfully established at Farish.  Quaking aspen is a short-lived “pioneer” species that relies on disturbance to create conditions needed for resprouting.  These aspen units enhance biodiversity, wildlife habitat and aesthetic quality.  We plan to create several additional aspen harvest units in the near future, ideally concurrent with an Engelmann spruce cone crop.  This would facilitate cone collection and establish a spruce seedbank for future reforestation needs at this high elevation.   

Forest Health Issues
Bark beetles have destroyed millions of acres in Colorado.  The mountain pine beetle and Ips engraver beetle are naturally endemic in Academy forests, causing scattered mortality in weaker trees throughout the landscape.  The recent prolonged drought and unnaturally dense forest conditions have changed the dynamics of insect infestation.  A healthy, vigorous tree can generally “pitch out” offending beetles, minimizing tree mortality and keeping insect populations at bay.  Natural factors such as woodpeckers, predatory beetles, and extreme sustained cold also limit population growth.  Forests that are stressed by drought and dense overstocking are prone to heavy mortality from insects and diseases.  Warming winter temperatures minimize the chance to collapse burgeoning beetle populations.  These factors set the backdrop for insect epidemics. 

Credit: USFWS.

Pine mortality from Ips engraver beetles Credit: USFWS.

If left untreated, beetles developing within brood (actively-infested) trees will emerge to attack additional trees.  Population growth can be exponential.  Heavy tree mortality exacerbates already elevated wildfire hazard.  The mountain pine beetle population peaked in the Academy in 2007.  Our aggressive management of this insect resulted in a decrease from nearly 300 trees to only one or two trees annually. Field surveys and prompt treatment of brood trees limit further tree mortality.  Treatment includes felling trees, chipping or de-barking or hauling to a “safe” place.  The latter consists of selling as firewood to a buyer in a location with no pines within several miles.

We are, however, incurring extensive mortality from the normally secondary Ips pine engraver beetle, which proliferates under drought conditions.  Although 2015 brought increased moisture, the past several winters have been extremely dry.  We removed 1,000 Ips-infested trees in 2013; 1,100 trees in 2014; and approximately 650 trees in 2015.  This decrease can be attributed to aggressive suppression efforts, in addition to increased precipitation in 2015.  This insect is particularly difficult to manage, as it develops rapidly and supports numerous generations annually.  It takes less than two months from the time a tree is attacked until adult beetles emerge to kill again.  This presents a logistical management challenge, and has been our top forest management priority for the past several years. 

Dwarf mistletoe, a parasitic plant that saps vigor out of trees, further stresses trees and predisposes them to beetle attack.  Trees are weakened when having to compete heavily for water, nutrients and sunlight.  Pockets of dwarf mistletoe infestation are sanitized to enhance tree health and decrease the risk of subsequent bark beetle attack.  This is done through removal of heavily-infected trees, and pruning of infected branches on salvageable trees. 

The Academy has been experiencing minor defoliation and decline in Douglas fir and white fir over the past few years, attributed primarily to drought and more recently to attack by the western spruce budworm.  The USFS has been closely observing budworm populations, and considers the threat to the Academy, Farish and the surrounding Pike National Forest to be low.  As such, no suppression measures such as spraying are being recommended at this time. The Academy does plan to remove several areas of thick fir understory to limit spread of this insect.  Budworm larvae descend on silken threads, landing on and defoliating understory (small) firs.  If no understory host species are present, these insects will likely be preyed on. The Academy continues to monitor budworm populations at Farish, where Douglas fir and Engelmann spruce have shown light infestation levels in recent years. Evidence of this insect has been growing throughout southern Colorado, with 200,000 acres infested in 2014.        

Credit: USFWS.

Douglas fir at Cheyenne Mountain AFS defoliated by tussock moth Credit: USFWS.

Another concern is recent Douglas fir tussock moth infestations at Cheyenne Mountain and Perry Park, which have caused intensive defoliation of Douglas fir and white fir.  Both CMAFS and the Academy have been working closely with the USFS to monitor for egg masses to predict population levels.  Outbreaks typically last two to three years, and larval samples from Cheyenne Mountain indicate presence of the nucleopolyhedrosis (NPV) virus, indicating a likely population collapse.  The Academy has been monitoring closely through use of pheromone traps and egg mass checks for presence of this damaging inset, with none found to date.

Spruce beetle is also a serious concern at Farish. This relative of the mountain pine beetle infested 500,000 acres of Engelmann spruce in Colorado in 2014.  By proactively monitoring forest health and removing downed and dead spruce (the preferred breeding site of spruce beetles), we do not anticipate extensive losses at Farish.  

Further information on insects and diseases affecting the Front Range can be found at:

Mountain Pine Beetle:
http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/mountain-pine-beetle-5-528/
Ips Engraver Beetle:
http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/insect/05558.pdf  
Western Spruce Budworm:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev2_043445.pdf
Douglas-Fir Tussock Moth:
http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/douglas-fir-tussock-moths-5-542/
Spruce Beetle:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev2_043648.pdf
Dwarf Mistletoe:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev2_043648.pdf

                               


Recovery & Conservation »

« Back to the top

Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service marking fish for a population estimate. Credit: USFWS.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service marking fish for a population estimate. Credit: USFWS.

Restoring and maintaining wildlife diversity for threatened and endangered species are a primary focus for the Colorado FWCO. Projects such as prescribed burns, dam removals, and implementing fish surveys all contribute to the recovery and conservation efforts within the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Air Force Academy is home to the largest population of the federally threatened Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) in the Arkansas River drainage. Since 2000, a Conservation Agreement between the base and the US Fish and Wildlife Service has guided the protection and conservation of this rare subspecies, while allowing for military training and the routine operation and maintenance of facilities and infrastructure. Since the mid-1990's, population and habitat monitoring, habitat protection, and the mitigation of any unavoidable habitat disturbance have been focal areas of the Air Force Academy's highly-regarded Preble's conservation program. Other rare animal and plant species of special concern on the installation include Porter’s Feathergrass, Southern Rocky Mountain Cinquefoil, American Currant, Hops Azure butterfly, Northern Leopard Frog, Merriam’s Shrew, Ovenbird, Plains Ironweed, and Rocky Mountain Blazing Star. The Natural Resource biologists work extensively with field scientists from the Colorado Natural Heritage Program to identify, map, monitor, and protect these species and associated unique, high-value natural communities.

Other projects that the COFWCO is currently working on include:

  • Study on the migratory patterns of burrowing owls
  • Movement, growth and entrainment into irrigation canals by Rio  Grande chub and sucker
  • Aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity and species distribution in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Genetic recovery of Greenback cutthroat trout


Hunting & Fishing Opportunities »

« Back to the top

Bear getting into improperly secured trash on the Academy.  Capture and tagging of a moose on F.E. Warren AFB. . Credit: USFWS.

Bear getting into improperly secured trash on the Academy. Capture and tagging of a moose on F.E. Warren AFB. . Credit: USFWS.

The Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office works with the U.S. Air Force Academy and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to conduct deer, elk and turkey hunts on Academy lands. In addition, local lakes are stocked with catchable size Snake River cutthroat trout.


Game and Non-Game Wildlife Management
Frequent opportunities to view a diversity of wildlife in their natural habitat is an important part of what makes the Air Force Academy a special military base and educational institution. Over 70 mammals and 200 bird species utilize the installation's vast open space, with mule and white-tailed deer, American elk, Merriam’s turkey, black bear, coyote, mountain lion, beaver, songbirds, raptors, and waterfowl commonly observed.  Guided hunting - which is open to the general public - is used to sustain the deer and elk populations within the carrying capacity of the habitat and to help reduce vehicle-animal accidents.  The Natural Resource biologists frequently address nuisance or dangerous wildlife issues and assist the Airfield with efforts to minimize bird and other wildlife hazards in the airfield environment.. Guided deer and elk hunting - which is open to the general public - is used to maintain the big game populations within the carrying capacity of the habitat, and to reduce vehicle-animal accidents. Deer hunters must apply for a state license through the Colorado Big Game limited license system. Cow elk hunters must apply in May at the Outdoor Recreation Center (333-4356) (Building 5136) for a random drawing that is conducted by the Natural Resources office.


Recreational Fisheries Management
Five lakes on the Air Force Academy and three lakes at Farish Recreation Area are stocked annually from April through October with 9-11 inch rainbow trout.  Grass carp are also placed in the lakes to help control aquatic weeds.  All eligible anglers over 16 years old must purchase a one-day or annual Air Force Academy fishing permit; a state permit is not required. Receipts from the sale of fishing permits is used to cover the annual cost of stocking the hatchery-reared trout.  Fishing is not open to the general public; only active duty military, military retirees, and base DoD civilians are eligible for a fishing permit.  Free, lifetime fishing permits are available at Natural Resources for Purple Heart recipients and individuals with a 60% or higher Veterans Affairs (VA) disability rating.  Fishermen with a state-issued handicap license plate or placard can get paperwork from Natural Resources for a DoD card to operate the Airfield's electronic gate to more easily access the Kettle Lakes area. 


Useful Links & Resources:

To Report Bear Activity to Natural Resources, please send an e-mail to Bear.Watch@usafa.af.mil


Cultural Resources »

« Back to the top

CO FWCO staff members, Max Canestorp and Clark Jones, implement the Cultural Resource Management Program on Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD). In this capacity, they review proposed military projects to ensure compliance with federal regulations, and provide recommendations regarding the locations, timing, and/or methodologies of these projects to avoid adverse effects to cultural resources. They coordinate cultural resource surveys and monitoring prior to and during the undertaking of projects, respectively. Finally, they coordinate PCD policies and activities with the Colorado State Historic Preservation Office, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Native American Tribes claiming cultural affiliation to the area as necessary.

Watershed Management

The Colorado FWCO works with the U.S. Air Force at McConnell Air Force Base in urban Wichita, Kansas to manage for water quality in the Cowskin Creek-Arkansas River watershed. A study conducted by Oklahoma State University in 2014 scored the health of wetlands across the base using the California Rapid Assessment Method. Following the conclusion of the study, Laura Mendenhall helped develop an implementation strategy for riparian buffer areas in important areas throughout the watershed. Monitoring is planned annually to determine whether and how riparian buffers are improving the health of base wetlands.

Oklahoma State University researchers sampling the streams on McConnell Air Force Base to establish a biological baseline. Credit: USFWS.

Oklahoma State University researchers sampling the streams on McConnell Air Force Base to establish a biological baseline. Credit: USFWS.

The Air Force Academy has a critical role in sustaining the stability of the Monument Creek and Fountain Creek watersheds against regional flooding and urban stormwater drainage. The installations 18,455 acres, including Monument Creek and its tributary streams, covers less than 25% of the Monument Creek watershed, but the base's central position in the landscape results in nearly 75% of the watershed's drainage passing through its streams.  Fortunately, the wetland and riparian systems still provide valuable ecosystem services like diverse wildlife habitat, improved water quality, enhanced water storage, and flood protection.  These systems, however, are being increasingly degraded by erosion and sedimentation caused by an elevated frequency, volume, and rate of stormwater runoff generated from off-base development.  The installation is a stakeholder and active participant in the Monument Creek Watershed Flood Restoration Master Plan and the El Paso County Regional Watershed Collaborative initiatives. 

Laura Mendenhall bands a Canada goose for a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism resident Canada Goose study. Credit: USFWS.

Laura Mendenhall bands a Canada goose for a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism resident Canada Goose study.Credit: USFWS.

Collaboration with Other Agencies
The Colorado FWCO staff collaborates with state natural resources agencies and USFWS partners in order to share knowledge, work jointly to reach conservation goals, and educate the public on pertinent natural resources issues. In Kansas, Laura Mendenhall worked with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism on Arkansas Darter mapping and sampling and Canada Goose banding. Both species have the potential to impact natural resources management at McConnell Air Force Base. Mendenhall also worked alongside Kansas NWR staff to educate the public on wildlife biology at the Kansas State Fair. This kind of collaboration is important in the fostering of effective natural resources management both on military installations and within the larger landscape.

Avian Research and Conservation
Colorado FWCO staff also partner with several agencies and organizations conducting conservation and research projects on avian communities. At Pueblo Chemical Depot, Clark Jones collaborates with Dr. Courtney Conway from the USGS Cooperative Research Unit at the University of Idaho examining Burrowing Owl Migratory routes and wintering locations (click here to see current locations). Additionally, Pueblo Chemical Depot also regularly serves as a release location for rehabilitated raptors from the Pueblo Nature and Raptor Center. The U.S. Air Force Academy and Pueblo Chemical Depot also coordinate with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies (BCOR) conducting Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR). One goal of this project is to develop species distribution maps for birds on military lands across the Front Range. Clark also conducts research on Cassin’s Sparrows, examining site fidelity and survival. Cassin’s Sparrow is a species of conservation concern that is partially nomadic in several portions of its range with populations fluctuating in response to precipitation.

Climate Change

In 1998, Pueblo Chemical Depot initiated a post-grazing study to examine vegetation recovery following the removal of cattle grazing. Partnering with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP), vegetation monitoring at over 1,400 quadrats has been conducted during nine field seasons from 1999-2015. The CNHP has detected few differences between grazed and ungrazed plots following the removal of cattle, but patterns have emerged that may have implications for climate change. Long-term forecast models for the region predict longer and more intense droughts that may have devastating effects on dominant grasses (e.g., blue grama) that are important components of the shortgrass prairie ecosystem.  Blue grama is an important component of the shortgrass prairie and is a nutritious forage for cattle. Since 1998, blue grama frequency across 1,400 plots on Pueblo Chemical Depot has decreased dramatically.

Blue grama frequency and summer drought index (positive values indicate moisture deficit) 1999-2015.
Courtesy Colorado Natural Heritage Program.

Blue grama frequency and summer drought index (positive values indicate moisture deficit) 1999-2015. Courtesy Colorado Natural Heritage Program.

 


Publications »

« Back to the top

Published works by staff in the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office are listed below to show the continuous effort to improve conservation science.

Metcalf, J.L, Love Stowell, S., Kennedy, C.M., Rogers, K.B., McDonald, D., Epp, J., Keepers. K., Cooper, Cooper., Austin, J.J., Martin, A.P. (2012). Historical Stocking Data and 19th Century DNA Reveal Human-Induced Changes to Native Diversity and Distribution of Cutthroat Trout. Molecular Ecology, 21(12), 5194-5207. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mec.12028/abstract


Newsletters »

« Back to the top

There are numerous ongoing activities in the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office so this section is the best source to read updated information on current projects. The newsletters below document progress on year-long projects to one week assignments. Most recently, the FWCO office completed a prescribed burn at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Click on the May newsletter to read more about this effort to conserve a native species!


Staff & Contact Information »

« Back to the top

Pam Sponholtz. Credit: USFWS.

Pam Sponholtz. Credit: USFWS.

Pam Sponholtz
Project Leader
303-236-4216
Pamela_sponholtz@fws.gov

Pam comes to the Service after six years of experience under the Environmental Protection Agency sampling zooplankton on the Great Lakes. After an awe-inspiring trip to the Grand Canyon in 1995, Pam moved to Arizona and obtained her master’s degree in Biology from Northern Arizona University where she investigated native and non-native fish relationships in conjunction with habitat alteration in the Upper Verde River. After working for Arizona Game and Fish Department as the State Aquatic Habitat Specialist, she started working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on recovery and monitoring of native fishes in the northern part of Arizona, including the Colorado River and Grand Canyon National Park. Her current position with the Service includes extensive recovery and conservation efforts for listed species on Department of Defense lands and in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Max Canestorp. Credit: USFWS.

Max Canestorp. Credit: USFWS.

Max Canestorp
Natural and Cultural Resource Manager
719-549-4228
Kevin.m.canestorp@us.army.mil

Max has been with the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office since 1988, having worked on ten Army and Air Force installations in two regions in that time. Duties with his current position include the development and implementation of Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans; conducting field projects such as prairie dog surveys on Schriever AFB and noxious weed surveys, monitoring and control on Peterson and Schriever AFBs and Cheyenne Mountain AFS; assessing and monitoring damages caused by the Douglas-fir tussock moth, an invasive defoliator in spruce/fir forests; coordinating fire mitigation efforts on Cheyenne Mountain AFS; resolving human/wildlife conflict issues, such as birds and bears gaining access to buildings; assessing potential impacts to natural and cultural resources from military operations; and coordinating with other agencies and Native American Tribes to further the mission of the Service jointly with military installations.


Chris Kennedy. Credit: USFWS.

Chris Kennedy. Credit: USFWS.

Chris Kennedy
Fish Biologist
970-586-9279
Chris_kennedy@fws.gov

Chris has been in his current position for over 15 years and primarily works within Rocky Mountain National Park conducting fish surveys. Chris has also done work at the U. S. Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, Rocky Flats and Peterson Air Force Base. In addition he is involved in range-wide management for the federally threatened greenback cutthroat trout and the Colorado River cutthroat trout. An avid interest of Chris’ is the history of fish in Colorado which he has researched for about 10 years.


Brian Mihlbachler. Credit: USFWS.

Brian Mihlbachler. Credit: USFWS.

Brian Mihlbachler
Natural Resources Manager
719-333-3308
Brian.mihlbachler@USAFA.af.mil

Brian is located at the U.S. Air Force Academy where his responsibilities include fisheries, wildlife, and rangeland management; outdoor recreation; watershed management; erosion control and vegetation; and threatened and endangered species. With an educational background is in biology and rangeland science, he has gained 22 years of experience in natural resource management and conservation from assignments with various partners such as the Army, Air Force, Bureau of Reclamation, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


Krystal Phillips. Credit: USFWS.

Krystal Phillips. Credit: USFWS.

Krystal Phillips
Fish and Wildlife Biologist
720-847-6158
krystal_phillips@fws.gov

Krystal joined the Service in 2006 upon graduating from University of Colorado – Colorado Springs. With five years of active duty military service under her belt, she began her USFWS career on Fort Carson Military Reservation with the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO), as a Biological Science Technician performing agronomy, avian, fish, and wildlife surveys. At present, Krystal is the Natural Resource Manager responsible for the program development, management, and execution of natural resources projects on Buckley Air Force Base (BAFB) in support of maintaining military readiness. Her most recent accomplishment was the tripartite - USFWS, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and U.S. Air Force, finalization of the BAFB Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan under the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670 et seq., as amended). Krystal received her graduate degree in 2012, from University of Denver, in Environmental Policy and Management with emphasis in natural resources.


Diane Strohm. Credit: USFWS.

Diane Strohm. Credit: USFWS.

Diane Strohm
Natural Resources Manager
719-333-3308
Diane.strohm@USAFA.af.mil

Diane has managed the Academy forestry and wildland fuels programs since 2004. Prior to this, she worked for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for 25 years in Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Colorado.  She worked for the Colorado State Forest Service while a student at Colorado State University.  Diane was a certified silviculturist and prescribed fire burn boss with the USFS.  Her final position with the agency was Operations Chief on the Hayman Fire Restoration Team.  Her current niche in the fire arena is infrared interpretation, for which she became certified in 2000.  She assists national firefighting efforts through mapping active wildfires and providing this information to incident management teams, for use in developing suppression strategies.  Diane lives just north of the Academy with her husband Mark.

 


Steve Wallace. Credit: USFWS.

Laura Mendenhall. Credit: USFWS.

Laura Mendenhall
Fish and Wildlife Biologist – McConnell AFB, KS
316-759-5765
Laura_mendenhall@fws.gov

Laura Mendenhall began her fish and wildlife career managing endangered California Condors on the West Coast. There she developed an interest in wildlife stakeholder facilitation, structured decision-making, and population viability modeling. Her passion for Kansas conservation soon drew Laura back to her home state where she now serves as the USFWS liaison for McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.


Clark Jones. Credit: USFWS.

Clark Jones. Credit: USFWS.

Clark Jones
Fish and Wildlife Biologist– Pueblo Chemical Depot
(719)549-4228
clark_jones@fws.gov

Clark serves dual roles as the Natural and Cultural Resource Manager for Pueblo Chemical Depot. His primary responsibilities include wildlife and habitat management, as well management of historical and archaeological resources. Clark received his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia where he studied avian communities in longleaf pine forests. He comes to the USFWS after working as an adjunct instructor in ornithology at the University of Georgia and two years working as a contractor for the National Park Service.


Melissa Wittingslow. Credit: USFWS.

Melissa Wittingslow. Credit: USFWS.

Melissa Whittingslow
Fish and Wildlife Biologist
melissa_whittingslow@fws.gov

Melissa Whittingslow graduated with her undergraduate in Environmental Science from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. After graduating Melissa worked at the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis, WA as a seasonal Forestry Technician. In 2012 she accepting a term position as a Water Quality Biology Technician at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach, FL. Melissa is currently working as the Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the U.S. Air Force Academy.


Dustin Casady. Credit: USFWS.

Dustin Casady. Credit: USFWS.

Dustin Casady
Fish and Wildlife Biologist
dustin_casady@fws.gov

Dustin worked for several state agencies and various non-profit organizations before becoming a Pathways student for the USFWS. After finishing the Pathways Program and earning a master’s degree in wildlife ecology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, he joined the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (COFWCO) as a biological science technician. After working for the COFWCO for a year and half he accepted a position as a Fish and Wildlife Biologist. In his current position his main duties are invasive species management, habitat restoration, biological surveys and reports, bird air strike hazard reduction and pest management on Buckley Air Force Base (BAFB). He also assists in program development, management, and execution of natural and cultural resources projects on BAFB and routinely assists co-workers with projects on other installations. 

 


James Donahey. Credit: Diane J. Strohm

James Donahey. Credit: Diane J. Strohm

.

James Donahey
Forester
James_Donahey@fws.gov

Dustin worked for several state agencies and various non-profit organizations before becoming a Pathways student for the USFWS. After finishing the Pathways Program and earning a master’s degree in wildlife ecology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, he joined the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (COFWCO) as a biological science technician. After working for the COFWCO for a year and half he accepted a position as a Fish and Wildlife Biologist. In his current position his main duties are invasive species management, habitat restoration, biological surveys and reports, bird air strike hazard reduction and pest management on Buckley Air Force Base (BAFB). He also assists in program development, management, and execution of natural and cultural resources projects on BAFB and routinely assists co-workers with projects on other installations. 

 


Alex Schubert. Credit: USFWS

Alex Schubert. Credit: USFWS

.

Alex Schubert
Fish and Wildlife Biologist
Alex_schubert@fws.gov

Alex came to the COFWCO after 14 years with the FWS Wyoming Ecological Services (ES) Office in Cheyenne where he conducted extensive endangered species act consultations over federal activities in Wyoming.  His priority duties there were the completion of Section 7 consultations for U.S. Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plan revisions.  He also led annual survey efforts for the threatened Colorado butterfly plant, reviewed military base Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans, and completed a recovery plan revision for the endangered Kendall Warm Springs dace.  Prior to his employment with the Wyoming ES office, Alex worked as a fisheries biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation as well as a Wildlife Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Alex holds a B.S. degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management as well as an M.S. degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri-Columbia. 

 


Important Links »

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: April 07, 2016
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
flickr youtube