Certified Natural Areas
The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department encourages site management practices that focus on protecting, restoring, and enhancing native animal and plant communities. The Natural Areas Certification Program was created to provide natural areas management guidance to private landowners and non-City public landowners.
Land certified as a natural area is managed by the landowner so that native animal and plant communities are enhanced, restored and protected. City staff provides assistance in the planning of this management. Landowners can feel proud that they are contributing to the Fort Collins community's goal of resource protection. Not only will they be providing higher quality habitat for the wildlife that they and their family enjoy seeing, but they will also be contributing to the protection and enhancement of the quality of life for all of Fort Collins citizens. Read the guidelines here. Applications must be submitted on Natural Area Certification forms (forms appear after the guidelines) and include all requested information.
Land certified as a Natural Area is eligible for the City's Natural Areas Enhancement Fund. This program was created to assist landowners in the implementation of their management plan. A separate application for these funds is required and is available from the Natural Areas Department. Applications for these funds are accepted in the fall of each year.
Natural Areas Certification is open to individual private landowners, groups of private landowners (e.g., homeowners' association, irrigation company), and schools whose land meets the City's established criteria for Natural Areas Certification. An organization or club can sponsor the Natural Areas Certification, with written permission of the landowner(s).
All of the following must be met:
- The land must be at least 1/4 acre in size.
- The land must be located entirely within the Fort Collins Growth Management Area.
- The land must have existing or potential wildlife habitat value.
The management plan must conform to City Code regarding trees and shrubs, weeds, brush piles, rubbish, and animals, even if the site is located outside of the City limits. If plantings are included in the management plan, in most cases, only native species should be planted. Control of noxious weeds will be required; removal of other exotic, pest plants will be encouraged. Amount and species of native trees and shrubs planted in floodplain areas may be restricted or removal may be required, based on requirements of the Utilities. Poudre Fire Authority may restrict the height of grasses and wildflowers in some areas or during dry periods.
Adjacent landowners must be informed by the applicant, in writing of the management plan.
Application & Certification
Applications must be submitted on forms and include all requested information. Applicant must submit the original and one photocopy. Photographs of the site and a map or scale drawing of project location and plans must be enclosed with the application. Photographs are part of the application and will not be returned. Private and non-City public natural areas are certified for a period of five years after approval of the management plan. At the end of the five-year period, the natural area is eligible for re-certification only if the management plan was successfully implemented.
Site Visit & Assistance
Natural Areas Department staff can assist applicants with development of a management plan and provide information on City Code, native plants, and exotic pest plants. Applicants must schedule a site visit with Natural Areas Department staff. Anticipate a 4-week processing period once the initial application is submitted.
The City supplies one 12" x 18" sign free of charge to designate certified natural areas. The sign must be displayed on the site to maintain certification.
Management Plan Implementation Funding
The Natural Areas Department has limited funds available to enhance or restore private or non-City public natural areas. A separate application to obtain these funds is available upon request each fall from the City's Natural Areas Department. See the 2017 Enhancement Fund application.
Justin Scharton, Senior Environmental Planner
Natural Areas Department
1745 Hoffman Mill Road, P.O. Box 580
Fort Collins, CO 80522-0580