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This newsletter was originally sent on Aug 4, 2015.
August 2015
Naturally Yours
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Summer Destination: Ross & Fischer Natural Areas

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Small, urban natural areas are important for wildlife and people.  With 43 natural areas ranging in size from 1 acre to over 22,000 acres, there are lots of choices of places to go! Ross and Fisher are small natural areas on the edge of Rolland Moore Community Park and they make a nice destination for those traveling along the Spring Creek Trail. Off trail exploration is allowed at Ross and Fischer making them a great place for kids to search for insects, climb on fallen trees, make mud pies or just watch the clouds drift by. Look for red foxes and other urban wildlife at Ross and Fischer. Do you know how Fischer got its name? This site was purchased by the City from Gene and MaryLynn Fischer in 1977 and named after them.

Core Natural Areas Management Plan Open House

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The Core Natural Areas are these small, urban sites:

A draft management plan has been written for these sites and the public is invited to share their thoughts at an Open House on Thursday, August 13, 4-7 p.m. at the Nix Farm Natural Areas Offices, 1745 Hoffman Mill Road. Learn more here.  Comments will be accepted until September 15.

Volunteer Planting: Give Back to the Places You Treasure

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You are invited to a wetland planting volunteer project! Dig in to help restore the Poudre River corridor! Volunteers will be greening up Springer Natural Area by planting small wetland plants. Thursday, August 6, 9:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m., Springer Natural Area.  Free, family-friendly (youth under 16 must be with an adult), registration required at http://naturetracker.fcgov.com .

Upcoming Free Activities

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Fort Collins, the River and You, Wednesday, August 5, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.Poudre Trail, meet at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery parking lot, 408 Mason Court. Discover the Cache la Poudre River as it both meanders and rushes through our city. Learn where it has been, where it is going, and what it sees along the way. Explore what stake you have in the river's flow and its future. 1 - 2 miles; easy. Free, no registration required but you can get a reminder and updates by signing up at naturetracker.fcgov.com.

Rustic Women of Soapstone Prairie, Sunday, August 9, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, meet at the north parking lot. Learn about three historical women who homesteaded at Soapstone Prairie and get a glimpse of pioneer life on the prairie. 0.5 miles on paved trail; easy.  Free, REGISTRATION REQUIRED at naturetracker.fcgov.com or call 970-416-2815.

Photographing Birds, Monday, August 10, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Pineridge Natural Area, meet at the Dixon Reservoir parking lot off CR 42C. Discover the local bird life and those little buttons on your digital camera as we take an evening stroll around Dixon Reservoir. This program is for all levels of photographers, bring your own camera. 2-3 miles; easy. Free, no registration required but you can get a reminder and updates by signing up at naturetracker.fcgov.com.

Science Behind the Scenery: Back Home: The Black-footed Ferret at Soapstone Prairie, Thursday, August 20, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Nix Farm Office at Kingfisher Point Natural Area, 1745 Hoffman Mill Road. These informative talks are designed for adults to learn more about research and science related to natural areas. Hear the story from Natural Areas Environmental Planner Daylan Figgs behind the release of the endangered black-footed ferret at Soapstone Prairie National Area. Free, REGISTRATION REQUIRED at naturetracker.fcgov.com or call 970-416-2815.

Natural History of Coyote Ridge, Friday, August 21, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. Coyote Ridge Natural Area, meet in the parking lot. Discover the wide variety of prairie wildlife and plants and see how geology connects it all as you ascend into the foothills. 2.5 miles; moderate. Free, no registration required but you can get a reminder and updates by signing up at naturetracker.fcgov.com.

Scenery Stories: Walk the Gangplank, Saturday, August 29, 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, meet in the north parking lot. Hike with a friendly and fun geologist to the top of Coyote Ridge to discover the Cretaceous Seaway. 4 miles; moderate. Free, REGISTRATION REQUIRED at naturetracker.fcgov.com or call 970-416-2815.

These are just some of the August offerings! Use the NatureTracker calendar to see all the activities (no login to naturetracker required to see the calendar).

Wade the River

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It is hot, so get into the river! Everyone is invited to wade the river with dip nets and collecting trays to discover what lives beneath the surface of the Cache la Poudre River. Biologists will be on-hand to help identify your finds. Fishes, insects, larvae, algae, and more are easily seen with field microscopes. Bring your own towels, wear closed-toe shoes that can get wet, and sun and mosquito protection. All equipment is provided. Saturday, August 8, 1-4 p.m. at Lee Martinez Park, This is a free event and no registration is required but you can get a reminder and updates by signing up at naturetracker.fcgov.com .

Back to School: Field Trips Available!

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Back to school time is an opportunity to work with your teacher to get kids outside!  The Natural Areas Department offers free school field trips and transportation funding.

 Volunteer Master Naturalist volunteers lead the field trips and classroom presentations. Our programs are standards-based and correlate to FOSS kits. All materials and equipment are supplied.

Programs can be custom-designed for a school's needs or choose from our lessons that focus on biology, interconnections, awareness and stewardship. Check out the 2015/2016 School Program Guide which gives details. This fun 7 minute video will help your students prepare for their experience.

Requests for Master Naturalist-led school field trips must be made three weeks in advance. In order to accommodate as many requests as possible, there is a limit of 2 field trips a year.

 

Restoration Update: Controlling Toadflax

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Exotic plants are bad for ecosystems.  That is because native animals use native plants, so when non-native plants invade, it reduces habitat for local wildlife. Working to reduce non-native plants is a big part of managing natural areas. Exotic plant control used to take up a lot of time for Natural Areas Department crews, but past success  means that time spent fighting weeds has gone down by 70%.  Although this year’s higher than average rainfall has presented challenges, the goal is to continue to reduce exotic plant infestations, as well as herbicide use across all natural areas. 

An integrated pest management approach works best and includes biological control using natural predators, parasites or pathogens. This reduces the amount of chemicals in the environment, the cost of control, and can be more effective in reducing exotic plants in the long term. 

A perfect candidate for biological control is dalmatian toad flax because it is a non-native plant that tends to grow in close proximity to sensitive native plant species, such as mountain mahogany.  Additionally, dalmation toadflax can be difficult to access due to terrain. Hand pulling can be effective but it is time intensive and can leave behind viable root fragments.

Three volunteers (one pictured, right) helped release weevils to control dalmatian toad flax at Pineridge Natural Area in June. The 1,200 weevils are expected to multiply over the next couple of years. Often biological control agents won’t compeltely eliminate an exotic plant infestation, but will reduce its capacity to compete with native plants, thus reducing the impact to the ecosystem. 

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naturalareaslogo.gif Natural Areas News is published on the first Tuesday of the month with occasional special editions. Newsletter comments are welcome. Please contact Zoe Shark, City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Community Relations Manager, 970-221-6311 or zshark@fcgov.com.

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