Most Frequently Asked Questions by Landowners
The Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) is a non-profit research affiliate at Colorado State University within the Warner College of Natural Resources. Our mission is to document Colorado’s biodiversity. We are not a state or federal program, although CNHP does contract with those agencies, as well as private and non-profit organizations, for specific projects. The purpose of collecting data is not for profit, but for research and education.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was developed primarily to protect endangered and threatened species as well as their critical habitat. The ESA applies to both animals (vertebrates and invertebrates) and plants, but not natural plant communities. If a Listed animal is found during a CNHP survey, we immediately notify the landowner. The landowner may choose to have CNHP omit this finding from our survey.
Unlike vertebrate animals, plants and insects receive less protection under the law. Most restrictions on harming listed plants apply only to public lands. Private landowners using federal money for habitat alteration or who have other forms of federal involvement on their land (such as wetland permits) are also restricted from harming listed plants. On private lands, listed plants are protected from collection or harm by trespassers and from misapplication of some herbicides, but no restrictions exist on direct harm or habitat alteration by landowners. In Colorado, the only plant that receives state protection is the state flower, Colorado columbine.
First, a signed permission must be obtained from the landowner before the survey can begin. The landowner is always encouraged to accompany the scientist during the site visit. The landowner has the option to retain the field notes.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) empowers the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) to regulate any discharge into navigable waters, including wetlands. The USACOE has a strict definition for wetlands that fall under its jurisdiction: an area must have sufficient water (hydrology) during the growing season to support wetland plants and wetland soils. All three of these criteria must be met to be a jurisdictional wetland. Colorado has many wet areas that do not meet this definition, for example lands bordering rivers may not have wetland soils. CNHP’s mission is to document biodiversity of an area, not to delineate wetland boundaries. The information collected during a wetlands survey is not specific enough to be used for the purpose of regulating wetlands.
The information gathered by CNHP scientists will provide valuable ecological data on plant and animal species, as well as important natural plant communities. The information collected as part of this project will be entered into a database at Colorado State University.
The information collected by CNHP is typically used to:
- Provide landowners with important ecological information on plants, animals, and natural plant communities found on their property.
- Enhance planning for the management of open space and wildlife habitat in the local area.
- Provide information to the public to encourage the voluntary conservation of areas that have statewide biological significance.
There are four levels of data for clients:
- Level 1 Data are provided to clients for lands owned or managed by the client. These data are “as is” and include exact locations. These data require a data license agreement prior to release.
- Level 2 Data are provided to clients for lands not owned or managed by the client for internal use only. These data are “fuzzed” or generalized using random, regular grids. The occurrences are generalized to 1 sq. mile for non-sensitive data and 4 sq. miles for sensitive data on both public and private lands.
- Level 3 Data are provided to clients for external display. These data are generalized to 1 sq. mile for non-sensitive data and 9 sq. miles for sensitive data.
- Level 4 data are freely available from CNHP website. These include generalized data to the USGS 7.5 min quad level and Potential Conservation Areas.
Information could help a County to obtain baseline information on its biodiversity. Also, the final product will provide the County with a prioritized list of Potential Conservation Areas to seek grants to protect as open space. A CNHP survey has proven to be beneficial in obtaining GOCO grants for open space acquisition and easements. Information could help a landowner by providing them with a list of species that occurs on their property. Landowners can also seek conservation easements.