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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

Top: James Donahey on a firefighting assignment in Wyoming.
Bottom Left: Pronghorn at Pueblo Chemical Depot.
Bottom Right: Melissa Whittingslow collects pinecones from the top of a healthy, high elevation ponderosa pine on the Academy. Credit: USFWS

Top: James Donahey on a firefighting assignment in Wyoming. Bottom Left: Pronghorn at Pueblo Chemical Depot. Bottom Right: Melissa Whittingslow collects pinecones from the top of a healthy, high elevation ponderosa pine on the Academy. 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:

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

Latest Highlight »

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Southern Rockies Seed Network and USFWS Cross Pollinate

Zach Clarke-Lee gazes proudly upon 3,000 ecotypic chokecherry seedlings. Credit: USFWS.

Zach Clarke-Lee gazes proudly upon 3,000 ecotypic chokecherry seedlings. Credit: USFWS

The unmet demand for ecotypic seed, cuttings, and containerized plant materials within our ecoregion exists in large part due to a historic reliance upon mass-produced plant cultivars, a lack of consistent and focused demand for ecotypic plants, and a scarcity of proper production and storage facilities. Developing reliable sources of ecotypic seed is critical to maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and native flora of the Southern Rockies Ecoregion and adjacent Ecoregions in Colorado and Wyoming.

The Southern Rockies Seed Network (SRSN) formed in 2014, thanks to the dedication of over 40 agency and industry partners in Colorado and Wyoming. The SRSN 2015 annual meeting attracted 95 federal, state, and local partners to learn more about ecotypic plant materials development and hone strategies for advancing the development of such plant materials in our region. The USFWS has been an important support of this program from the beginning. The seed network is working to develop ecotypic workhorse plant materials (i.e., those most commonly used in ecological restoration) as well as niche ecotypic seeds to meet targeted partner needs (i.e., pollinator plants, shrubs for mine-land reclamation, or propagation of rare species for conservation). Following the 2013 floods, the development of ecotypic plant materials for to meet the substantial riparian restoration needs has become a high priority.

Electrofishing Surveys in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

Electrofishing surveys were conducted at five locations within RMNP, the Big Thompson River, the Roaring River, and Glacier Creek. The Big Thompson surveys were conducted to assess the effects of a fire and flooding in the drainage and fish were found to be more abundant than the last time it was surveyed. The Roaring River survey was to assess the recovery of the fish population at the site following flooding and fish were more abundant than the last time it was surveyed, but it is not fully recovered. The Glacier Creek survey was a standard trend survey with fish being sampled for disease testing by the USFWS Bozeman Fish Health Center. Fish were abundant in the creek with brown trout being the dominant species.

 


National Fish Passage Program »


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 Credit: USFWS.

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 and ultimately contribute to opportunities for sport fishing. Specific projects to reestablish healthy fish populations include removal of culverts in Thompson Creek, the Fountain Creek Habitat Improvement Project and restoration of Tabequache Creek in the San Miguel drainage.

Current NFPP Projects

In cooperation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Baca National Wildlife Refuge, Pam Sponholtz, Melissa Whittingslow, Dustin Casady and Tim Grosch collected Rio Grande suckers and chubs from Crestone Creek near the Sangria De Cristo Mountains. The purpose of this study is to monitor movement upstream after several culverts are fixed under the NFPP.

At Baca National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Pam Sponholtz and Wayne Stancil (Region 6 Fish Passage Engineer) measured culverts and road crossings that are thought to be barriers to upstream movement to Rio Grande sucker and chub. Funding has been received from the NFPP to fix some of these issues. These projects are some of the highest priority areas on the refuge.

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.

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 »

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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.


Invasive Species Management

Russian Olive Treatment

Melissa Whittingslow and Dustin Casady surveyed many of the drainages on the US Academy for invasive Russian olives during the month of October. Russian olive trees are a large deciduous shrub or small tree, up to 25' tall. These highly invasive plants quickly take over stream banks, lakeshores and prairies, choking out native vegetation in riparian habitat. Performing the treatments during fall is more effective, as the plants are drawing nutrients down into the root system along with the herbicide that was applied to the cambium layer of the trunk.

Biocontrols

Buckley Air Force Base (BAFB) employs the use of biocontrols to control targeted invasive plant species. Historically, TX AgriLife conducts site surveys and releases insects targeted for the invasive plants on BAFB. This year’s targeted focus is on leafy spurge. Krystal finalized the TX AgriLife partnership field schedule and submitted critical installation access request forms to support survey dates in June through October.

Dalmatian Toadflax Control

On a frigid winter day, Pam Sponholtz (USFWS), Brian Mealor (U. Wyoming), Dan Tekiela (U. Wyoming), Beth Fowers (U. Wyoming), and Alex Schubert met at F.E. Warren AFB to discuss sheep grazing/dalmation toadflax (Linaria dalmatica) control. Bobby Johnson (FE Warren AFB) gave a tour of the potential area of the project. Beginning in 2016, F.E. Warren AFB is planning to experimentally control invasive weeds through livestock grazing alternated with chemical herbicide use. The proposed project seeks to improve the manager’s ability to reduce invasive weed impacts, Dalmatian toadflax in particular, on F.E. Warren AFB by evaluating different management approaches. This project seeks to expand upon existing knowledge for strategically managing problematic invasive plant species in rangeland ecosystems, while providing locally relevant recommendations for F.E. Warren AFB.


Forestry and Wildland Fuels Management »

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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.

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. 

 

Forest Health Reconnaissance at Cheyenne Mountain AFS

Credit: USFWS.

Max Canestorp fells an infested pine to provide a living laboratory to examine damage. Credit: USFWS.

Max Canestorp and Diane Strohm spent a day examining numerous dying trees at CMAFS. Several pines had died of Ips and twig beetles. Max Canestorp felled a heavily infested tree, affording an excellent opportunity to examine beetle infestation across the entire tree. This is the most effective method of learning the signature of infested trees, especially difficult to judge when beetles are present only in the upper portions. Max will wrap the infested trunk sections with plastic to solarize the developing brood, and chip the slash to annihilate Ips and twig beetles in the upper bole and tree canopy. This is important to minimizing spread to nearby trees.

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 »

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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.

Credit: USFWS.

Credit: USFWS.

Nesting burrowing owls

A third pair of nesting burrowing owls has been discovered on Buckley Air Force Base and has been confirmed by Dustin Casady. The GPS location of the nest was documented and Krystal Phillips disseminated the information to Air Force personnel who have been instructed to stay out of the area. Disturbance in the immediate area can cause the burrowing owls to abandon the nest and can negatively impact the Colorado threatened species.

In June of 2015, Clark Jones partnered with Dr. Courtney Conway from the Idaho Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit to band and satellite tag burrowing owls at Pueblo Chemical Depot. This research is part of a larger study tracking the migratory paths of burrowing owls across a range of habitats in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The goal of research is to determine what factors may be driving declines of this species and whether or not changing conditions on the wintering grounds are influencing population declines on the breeding grounds.
The Burrowing Owls are on the move! Two burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) fitted with satellite transmitters last June at Pueblo Chemical Depot began their northward migration in March. After spending the winter in Chihuahua State, Mexico, Burrowing Owl #120430 began moving north on March 28, and remained in the Big Bend region of Texas through the end of the month. Burrowing Owl #120431 departed its wintering location near Mexico City several weeks earlier on March 4, and stopped over near Lubbock, TX very close to its previous stopover location during fall migration. This project is part of a partnership with the University of Idaho USGS Cooperative Research Unit to better understand the causes of population declines of burrowing owls.
Check out the current locations of the Pueblo Chemical Depot Burrowing Owls at     http://hallgis.com/projects/PTT_test.html.   

Boreal Toad Recovery Team

Pam Sponholtz attended the Boreal Toad Recovery Team meeting. Topics discussed included further spread of chytrid fungus and reduced population numbers rangewide. However, promising research on chytrid resistance and chytrid-specific bacteria that fights off the fungus may help stabilize populations in the future.

 


Hunting & Fishing Opportunities »

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Brian Mihlbachler and Melissa Whittingslow conducted the 2015 Air Force Academy deer hunt with 15 bucks and 13 does harvested; and 100% hunter success. Dustin Casady and Max Canestorp helped several hunters successfully fill tags at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Hunters ranged from those with little experience to avid hunters who were guides themselves. One of the hunters Casady escorted on base was only 12 years old and was very excited to shoot his first deer with his father’s gun. The Academy maintains a deer hunting program to meet environmental management objectives. The program has been very successful over the years in reducing the deer population and giving hunters a great experience. Thanks to all the USFWS, CPW, and USAFA staff and volunteers that assisted with guiding the 28 hunters.

USAFA Deer and Elk Hunts. On March 8, Melissa Wittingslow and Brian Mihlbachler met with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s wildlife biologist to discuss the analyzed data from the deer/ Elk survey conducted on the US Air Force Academy. The documents showed that the Academy’s elk and deer populations are able to sustain the 2016 deer and elk hunts

Turkey Hunting

Brian Mihlbachler and Melissa Whittingslow are working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to reinstitute spring turkey hunting on the Air Force Academy in support of the Rookie Sportsman Program. CPW staff and their volunteers will serve as hunter escorts if the activity is approved by the Academy commanders.


Game and Non-Game Wildlife Management

Pronghorn Antelope Survey

Alex Shubert and Dustin Casady conducted an antelope survey on F.E. Warren Air Force Base. The antelope numbers are down significantly compared to counts done the prior fall. The cause for the drop in population is unknown and many dead carcasses have been found across base throughout the winter. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services personnel will be looking for fresh carcasses to be tested for disease and will continue to monitor the population.

Black-footed Ferret

Alex Schubert prepared a draft black-footed ferret pre-conditioning facility management plan. F. E. Warren AFB has played an important role in the reintroduction process to reestablish the black-footed ferret in the prairie and sagebrush ecosystems that this species once inhabited. Through trial and error, researchers found that ferrets that were “pre-conditioned,” habituated by living around prairie dog towns in captivity, fared three times better when released into the wild then ferrets released without exposure to live prairie dogs. Using money bestowed through the Department of Defense’s Legacy Fund, F.E. Warren AFB was able to build a pre-release conditioning facility for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s (USFWS) National Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program.
This facility has been used as a ‘half-way house’ for ferrets raised in captivity. Healthy prairie dogs have been released into pens in the facility on F. E. Warren AFB to establish colonies. Once the prairie dogs have been established in the facility, young black-footed ferrets are housed with the prairie dogs to expose them to life with and around prairie dogs. These pens simulate their wild environment while not subjecting the ferrets to the real life dangers of predators and disease. After the pre-conditioning phase is complete, the young ferrets are then trapped from the pens and taken to one of several wild release sites in various western States.
The pre-conditioning facility at F. E. Warren AFB has not been used in several years. However, at this time with the placement of a USFWS natural resources manager on the base, the USFWS and the F. E. Warren AFB have the opportunity to resume activities at the preconditioning facility for captive bred ferrets. The pre-conditioning facility can house up to six family groups at one time. The USFWS proposes to transport ferrets to the facility where they would remain for up to 90 days. During the pre-conditioning period, ferrets will be housed in the outdoor enclosures where they will learn to hunt and eat prairie dogs. Prairie dogs to be used at the facility will be imported from trapping and breeding programs.

Cutthroat Trout

Chris Kennedy assembled and updated Colorado River Cutthroat Trout range-wide database with data from Rocky Mountain National Park. Each fish biologist in the States of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah inputs data into the database for the populations that they manage and the information is used to generate status assessments on recovery effort for the subspecies.

Chris Kennedy gathered information from Cascade Creek and Mirror Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), for purposes of conducting a native cutthroat trout restoration projects. Activities fish surveys, water quality measurements and invertebrate sampling. Work was done cooperatively with the U. S. Geological Survey, RMNP and volunteers.

Fish Stocking

Following recommendations outlined in the 2015 pond fisheries survey results, McConnell AFB stocked largemouth bass, channel catfish, and hybrid bluegill in two recreational ponds. Laura Mendenhall will survey the ponds again in 2-4 years to assess fish species composition and abundance, but will track fishing yields in the interim using creel survey forms and Floy tags. Mendenhall is coordinating with another Boy Scout troop to help catch, weigh, measure, tag, and release Largemouth Bass from one of the ponds. Mendenhall will also teach the Scouts how to set and check hoop net traps. The Scouts will help her set nets on base before camping out for one night and helping check nets the following morning.

Hops Azure Butterfly on native hops plant

Journal of Insect Conservation Publication. Brian Mihlbachler reviewed a draft publication by Rob Schorr and C. Puntenney (Colorado Natural Heritage Program) on “Patch occupancy and habitat of the hops azure (Celastrina humulus), a rare North American endemic butterfly: insights for monitoring and conservation”. This research, conducted on the Air Force Academy, was recently published in the Journal of Insect Conservation (25 Feb 2016, online).

Useful Links & Resources:

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



Cultural Resources »

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Cathedral Rock: A Native American cultural site composed of feldspar-rich sandstone of the Dawson Arkose Formation (Brian Mihlbachler, spring 2014).

Cathedral Rock: A Native American cultural site composed of feldspar-rich sandstone of the Dawson Arkose Formation (Brian Mihlbachler, spring 2014).

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.

In 2015, Clark Jones attended cultural resource training on historical archaeology of Colorado. This course covered several important topics related to cultural resource management in Colorado including how to define categories of historic properties, National Register criteria for evaluation of historic sites, and researching historic properties. This training was conducted by the Colorado Archaeological Society and the Office of the State Archaeologist.

Cultural Resource Protection

Diane Strohm met with a group from a local historical society to evaluate several trees that may have been culturally modified by Native Americans. The Utes bent, twisted, and peeled trees for a variety of reasons, including trail marking, spiritual observance, grave marking and medicinal uses. Two culturally modified trees (CMT) are located in close proximity to an upcoming utility line project. Diane is coordinating with planners to ensure protection of these and other CMTs.

 

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. 

Collaboration with Other Agencies

Pawnee Montane Skipper Surveys at Buckley AFB:

Pawnee Montane Skippers are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and are found in South Platte Canyon River drainage system in Colorado. In partnership with the USFWS, Ecological Services, Colorado Field Office, Krystal, Dustin, and Student Conservation Association interns volunteered one field day to sur-vey known skipper transects with-in the Pike National Forest in Deckers, CO managed by the US Forest Service.

Air Force Environmental Management – Cross Functional Team Aspect Inventory.

The Air Force has established an Environmental Management System (EMS) as the framework for process improvement through clearly defined environ-mental roles and responsibilities, planning requirements, budgeting, effective implementation and operation, and management review. Krystal teamed with Buckley Air Force Base (BAFB) EMS Program Manager to identify and determine past, present, or potential natural resource aspects and impacts (positive or negative) affected by Buck-ley’s operational processes. Krystal’s participation allowed for BAFB to re-main up to date and in compliance with the Air Force’s monitoring and measurement of environmental performance.

Kansas GIS Technical Meeting

 Laura Mendenhall attended the 2016 Kansas GIS Technical Meeting in Salina, Kansas. The meeting was a great opportunity to connect with Kansas GIS technicians and share data. Mendenhall learned about the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), LiDAR data for Sedgwick County, a USFWS web map showing impediments to fish passage (https://ecos.fws.gov/geofin/), and a new Kansas Forest web map that helps users choose the right tree plantings for different soil types. After exploration of some of these new data sources, Mendenhall learned that McConnell AFB contains part of a polygon ranked “most critical” for conservation using the WAFWA CHAT. Mendenhall will utilize some of this new data in the 2016 McConnell AFB INRMP update.

 


Publications »

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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 »

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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 »

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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

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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

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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. 

 


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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: September 21, 2016
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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