Children and Youth (infants - 19 years)
Children birth to age 3
Colorado is home to some of the last intact grasslands in the Great Plains. Once thought beyond the path of development, Colorado's wide open grasslands are rapidly vanishing. Grasslands are the least protected and most threatened habitat type on Earth, with less than two percent of their total area under formal protection globally and only four percent in the United States. Yet they are one of the most important. Grasslands catch and purify our water, provide habitat for countless species and essential income for ranching and farming communities.
As Front Range cities spill out onto the plains, new roads and subdivisions are fragmenting the prairie landscape that grassland species depend on and threatening a rural way of life that has persisted for generations. There is still time to save what's left of our large, unfragmented grasslands before the ranching communities that sustain them are gone and land values rise beyond our reach. As ranching communities begin to see how conservation can help sustain their livelihoods, there is a new feeling of hope blooming on the plains.
Increased partnerships with landowners, ranchers, members and government in an effort to conserve contiguous public and private lands.
Our forests are the victims of well-meaning fire suppression, the weakening effects of climate change and drought, and a growing population that lives in the middle of the forest. As a result, our over-crowded timber is prone to catastrophic fire, leaving a legacy dangerous to humans and natural communities. Over the past 10 years, we have experienced a growing number of large, unnatural fires and a rash of beetle outbreaks that have raised concerns about the health of Colorado's forests. The Hayman Fire in the summer of 2002 served as a wake-up call to Coloradans, burning over 140,000 acres and destroying 600 homes and buildings.
Restoring our forests and the role of the natural fires that sustain them will take decades, but we are at a moment of unprecedented agreement amongst all who care about these landscapes. Timber companies, homeowners, local, state and federal governments, and ardent environmentalists all agree on the path forward and have crafted a plan to create that future together. However, the amount of public resources available for forest restoration is far less than the need. The Nature Conservancy is leading an effort to restore Colorado's forests through safe prescribed fire, and policy initiatives.
Working with landowners, the U.S. Forest Service, state agencies and local fire departments, we will promote the use of fire as a management tool through prescribed burns and allowing natural fires to burn where it is safe to do so.
Colorado is the headwaters state. Eight major rivers have their source here and grow into great torrents as they leave the state, but 150 years of diverting water into dams, ditches, tunnels and pipelines have left us with precious few examples of what these rivers once were like and what life they sustained for millennia. We have prospered as a state by putting these waters in service of agriculture first, then industry, and now growing cities, but we have never included nature at the decision-making table. In recent years, drought has put further stresses on our water delivery systems and on the plants and animals that need these rivers to survive, and looming climate change has the potential to dramatically impact the amount of water available for humans and nature.
The bleak picture of the future of water in our state has paradoxically created an opportunity as urban water providers, rural water interests, and conservationists have come together to think more creatively about this resource. The Nature Conservancy will continue to develop water management solutions that sustain the natural environment while providing clean water supplies for people. We'll call for improved management of more than 1,000 river miles in the major river basins across Colorado and control tamarisk and restore native vegetation on two major river systems totaling more than 350 river miles. We will conserve vast wetlands complexes in the major aquifers of the Republican Basin and San Luis Valley. Finally, through our scientific approach, we will ensure that future water management decisions will seek a sustainable and resilient natural environment, even in the face of our changing climate.
We will improve management on over 1,000 miles of the 8 major river basins, control tamarisk and restore native vegetation on the main stem of the Colorado River and on the Purgatorie River and conserve vast wetland complexes in the major aquifers of the Republican River Basin and the San Luis Valley.
Our population is more and more removed from understanding the importance of nature and its life-giving systems at the exact moment in time when public understanding is needed to protect our future. The Nature Conservancy has a long and successful history of connecting people and nature. The centerpiece of our work has been our nature preserves. We have used these special places to provide hands-on experiences and education about the natural world for all ages.
To build a broad constituency strongly committed to conservation, the Conservancy will amplify the scientific, social, and economic messages of our work through new and existing partnerships. We must appeal to potential allies in urban and rural areas. Illustrating how conservation, clean air, and clean water go together, for example, is a powerful means of awakening people to the relationship between protecting nature and safeguarding the quality of human life. Our goal is to connect people with nature to increase their knowledge of natural processes, their connectedness to our natural world and their capacity for positive change.
Continued lectures and programs for the public through the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, increased media exposure through our quarterly magazine, increased member attendance on hikes and fieldtrips at our state-wide preserves.