by Jay Thompson and Bill Goosmann
Hopefully you were able to join us in Estes Park for our Seventeenth Annual conference in October. This was our first conference that focused on the importance of riparian areas to wildlife, and we were thrilled to see numerous new faces mixed in with our long-time members. It was an enjoyable and educational conference that delved into several areas and concepts that generated spirited discussions and questions.
The weather cleared off just long enough on Wednesday for Carlie Ronca from Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to lead a field trip to sites in the park that have been impacted by elk. The stark contrast in vegetation types inside and outside of a long-term exclosure at our first stop clearly demonstrated that elk have greatly altered the landscape in those areas of the park where they concentrate. Karl Cordova from RMNP then took the group to the site of the old Hidden Valley Ski Area. Karl showed us how the staff of RMNP is speeding up the natural recovery of the site while still providing a public tubing and sledding area to meet a recreational needs. Later on Wednesday at the CRA annual business meeting, new officers were appointed and the Executive Board membership for 2005 was approved (see the back page of this issue for an updated list of officers and executive board members).
Thursday was filled with a wide range of presentations, interaction with vendors and sponsors, and a chance to catch up with old and new friends at the social hour and banquet. The presentations ranged from effects of riparian community composition on stream invertebrates to the importance of healthy riparian areas to maintaining avian diversity to the effects of beaver and elk interactions on willow communities in Rocky Mountain National Park. We hope to have most of the presentations from the conference posted on the CRA website within a couple of months (copies of the Proceedings will be available from the website soon as well).
The evening social and banquet provided an opportunity for catching up and story swapping as well as an opportunity for outgoing President Denise Culver to present four Excellence in Riparian Management Awards. The first award was given to J. R. Ford from the Hidden Valley Ranch near Pagosa Springs, Colorado, for developing riparian and wetland habitat and preserving open space during the conversion of an historic ranch into a residential community. The second award was presented to Wildlands Restoration Volunteers for recruiting volunteers and sponsors to assist the U. S. Forest Service in the restoration of a damaged meadow in the Lefthand Canyon OHV Area near Boulder. The third award recognized Heather Knight and The Nature Conservancy for their management of the Phantom Canyon Preserve in Larimer County, which protects 6 miles of the North Fork Cache La Poudre River. The individual Excellence in Riparian Management Award was given to Kathy Carsey, botantist with the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest, for her long standing efforts to conserve and restore riparian and wetland habitat. Kathy worked with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Natural Areas Program (1994 -2001) before joining CNHP in 2001. Kathy’s work with CNHP culminated in the release of the quintessential field guide to plant associations of Colorado (Field Guide to the Wetland and Riparian Plant Associations of Colorado) in March 2003.
The conference wrapped up on Friday with a field trip led by Jeff Connor from Rocky Mountain National Park. Jeff took us to a site in the park which is recovering from impacts from a commercial venture not typically associated with National Parks — a golf course. The former golf course has been converted back to a meadow. Although hard to visualize today, Jeff showed the group how the old greens and tees are still slightly elevated and even pointed out areas that were once structures associated with the golf course. Jeff’s tour offered fascinating look at some of the history of Rocky Mountain National Park and provided a great conclusion to the conference.
Season’s Greetings to all!