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Saturday, March 9, 2013

UBC1113 ... Western Slope Native Seed meet

Jim Garner leads Native Seed meet

SUPPORTING THE NATIVES ... For many years the Public Land Partnership, centered in Montrose and under the leadership of Delta’s Dr. Mary Chapman, provided a table of trust forum for public land stakeholders of all sizes and shapes in four of the counties surrounding the Uncompahgre Plateau. Alliances were formed, and projects spun off from this innovative forest collaborative. Those projects included our own Burn Canyon Monitoring Committee and what has now become the Uncompahgre Partnership (UP).

One of UP’s most successful projects was its Native Plant effort. For years it has coordinated native seed collection and production for use in regeneration seed mixes on public lands -- not only in Colorado but in multiple Western states. Thanks to a recent grant, UP is hiring a Native Seed coordinator. Last month they held a two-day Native Seed Summit in Grand Junction at the Doubletree Inn, pulling together land agency managers, seed producers, botanists, enviros and a lone country government representative to try and see what this new coordinator could be doing to help forest restoration efforts in the Four Corners region using native seed in place of introduced forbs and grasses.

Locally collected native plants are usually best adapted to local regeneration projects, but the seed is often difficult to collect, harder to grow and rarely available in sufficient quantities to treat large landscapes, particularly after a forest fire. Jim Garner of Colorado Parks & Wildlife had great news, as reported in the Telluride Watch earlier this year – his state agency is building a native seed warehouse, where rare seeds will be able to be stored and research can be done on unique seed strains and cultivars.

 My interest was piqued because one of the primary recovery efforts for the Gunnison Sage Grouse is restoring critical areas to the kinds of sagebrush flats -- with an understory of succulent native forbs and grasses -- that the bird depends on for habitat. I’m hoping to see if San Miguel County can provide support to private landowners in our boundaries by paying them to do this kind of native plant recovery – a win for the bird, the private landowners and the community if we can increase critical habitat and, hopefully, increase the bird’s numbers in our county. The Native Seed folks had lists of native seed known to provide the best habitat for the Gunnison Sage Grouse. I’m hoping the county will be able to ease the burden to private landowners with money to help in habitat restoration.

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