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Natural Areas Annual Report for 2004

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2004 Natural Areas Report
A Message From the Director
John Stokes
John Stokes
Director of the Natural Resources Department
I always feel energized and renewed by the spring. the longer daylight hours trigger my yearning to wander...

The Poudre River is rising, the first migrating birds are working their way north, the crocus are blooming, my honey bees are flying purposefully on warm days, the maples have bloomed, our chickens are starting to lay more eggs, and the foxes are up to their springtime shenanigans on the back forty. All of these signals remind me, as if I needed any reminding, that the spring cycle of life is, once again, bursting forth with its usual passion.

I always feel energized and renewed by the spring. The longer daylight hours trigger my yearning to wander, to tend my bees, and to observe nature as it wakes from its winter somnolence. E.O. Wilson – the Harvard biologist, entomologist and Pulitzer Prize winning author, coined the word “biophilia,” described as the intense bond between humans and the rest of nature, a bond that is essentially hardwired by generations of co-evolution. My own perception of this bond is especially intense during the spring.

At this point, if you’ve made it this far, you may be thinking to yourself that these springtime ruminations are all very nice, but what do they have to do with the Natural Areas Program?

The fundamental answer is that our City-owned natural areas are rich environments where the opportunities to observe nature are abundant. Since its inception in 1992, the Natural Areas Program has built a successful track record of both conserving land and providing access to the public.

In terms of land conservation, last year saw the total number of conserved acres vault from 11,000 to approximately 33,500 (including 5,800 acres of leased land). Land was conserved in community separators, locally, and most spectacularly in the region. Highlights include the acquisition of a 151-acre tract on Overland Trail that harbors a wetland and preserves a great view corridor to the foothills; the acquisition of the program’s first ever conservation easement in the Timnath community separator; and in the most notable project of the year, the acquisition of the 12,500-acre Soapstone Prairie Natural Area for $7.3 million (see more on this acquisition in the Regional Conservation section).

As a staff privileged to help conserve land and manage it for its recreation, biologic, and scenic values, we know that we have a challenge ahead of us in terms of balancing the recreational use of these properties with our concomitant responsibility to steward their natural resource values as well as to manage them in a fiscally prudent manner. Importantly, we fully recognize that we have a responsibility to open these properties to the public as soon as possible so that we can all enjoy the harbingers of spring. Thus, we are working very hard to develop management plans and improvements in a timely fashion. Moreover, we are doing a thorough job so that when you arrive at a site you are safe, well oriented, and challenged by interesting wildlife observation, education, and recreation opportunities.

In 2004, we held three public open houses and sponsored 17 popular field trips to Bobcat Ridge Natural Area to hold a dialogue with the public about how best to manage this special property near Masonville which is scheduled to open in 2006. As we move forward with additional management plans and public improvements, I hope that you will continue to share your perspectives with us, and I also hope that you will spend time on our natural areas tapping into nature’s contagious springtime energy.