Fall 2014 Newsletter

Fall 2014 Newsletter

Greetings from the Executive Director

Welcome to our Enewsletter where we’ll be sharing our conservation successes, events and projects on the land through email on a seasonal basis. We are successful because of you and your ongoing support and belief in our mission. We hope you enjoy our stories and continue to support our efforts to leave a legacy for the next generation.
-Jeanne M. Beaudry

Land Stewards of the Year:

Ostertag Family and Long Meadow Ranch

MALT annually awards Land Stewards of the Year to people who have exhibited exceptional leadership in land conservation. This year the award, presented on August 9th at A Night in the Park, was given to Robert Ostertag and family for conserving their 257 acre Long Meadow Ranch in Park County.

Robert is the fourth generation to live and ranch on the land. The ranch has been in working operation under the current family of ownership for approximately 90 years (circa 1920s); though it is likely various ranching operations occurred as far back as the 1880s. Historically, potato farming and cattle grazing have comprised the main production crops and livestock on the property. Nowadays the land is used primarily for horse pasture and haying operations.

The Ostertag’s have always had a deep connection with their land and for good reason. A portion of the North Fork of the South Platte River traverses through a backdrop of Mount Logan, golden meadows and the ranch buildings distinctive red-roofs. This rural beauty, by the way, is all visible from Hwy 285, the main thoroughfare into Park County. The Ostertag’s Conservation Easement now provides a long-term opportunity for the general public to appreciate the property’s scenic value. “We want to honor traditions of my ancestors, like respect and stewardship, by maintaining the land as it always has been for generations to come,” says Robert.

The public benefits further from the Ostertag’s Conservation Easement from the wildlife habitat it conserves. Montane forests of ponderosa pine, blue spruce, Douglas-fir and aspen trees dominate the landscape but riparian and meadow areas are also present. This diverse habitat provides food, shelter, breeding ground and migration corridors for several wildlife species including deer, elk, eagles, hawks, carnivores and several species of state concern including Canada Lynx, Piling Plover and Least Tern.

Lastly, the water resources on the property serve an important function in the ecological health and diversity of the area. Drainage patterns, wetlands and water management regimes on the property help contribute to and sustain valuable scenic and ecologically beneficial areas for wildlife, plant and amphibian species.

Landowners that choose to complete Conservation Easements on their land are true pioneers for social good. The benefits the public receives from conserving open space landscapes are immense. Although benefits like improved water quality and wildlife habitat are not always tangible to the public, they contribute to a high quality of life for all people, even those residing in cities like Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder. For this reason MALT thanks the Ostertag’s for their dedication, respect and compassion for the natural world.

Deer Exclosure Constructed at MALT Conservation Easement

Ensuring Conservation Values such as wildlife habitat and water resources remain healthy and vibrant is a critical tenet of what MALT does. During the summer of 2014, MALT worked with multiple partners to improve aspen habitat on one of our largest conserved properties in Clear Creek County.
After years of monitoring the area, MALT staff determined aspen saplings were not regenerating and even dying in a sensitive meadow habitat on the property due to overgrazing by elk and mule deer. Aspen saplings are a popular food source for elk and mule deer because they are tender and sweet. However, overgrazing of aspen saplings will prevent them from reaching maturity. Mature aspens are well-known among the scientific community as excellent providers for nesting bird species. In addition, aspen have proved to increase snowpack retention, improve water quality by filtering pollutants and positively influence underlying soil by encouraging organic matter, phosphorous and water holding capacity. Therefore, MALT felt it was important to reverse the decline of aspen in this particular area.

With support from the Landowners and residents of the property, the project consisted of installing a six-foot fence around a one-acre area in the meadow. Specifications of the exclosure were designed in accordance with the U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Guidelines Handbook to exclude livestock and game wildlife from the fenced area. Long-term monitoring of the area inside the exclosure will occur to measure aspen saplings and their subsequent growth. The intention is to keep the exclosure in place long enough for aspens to grow to maturity.

MALT Project partners included Steele Street Bank and Trust (Landowners), residents on the property, Boys Scouts of America and Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. Coordination for the project was provided by Jack Winters, Boy Scout from Evergreen Troop 737 for his Eagle Scout Project. Volunteers from Wells Fargo (Candace Allen, Bob Woodward and Jennifer Bruce) provided the necessary labor for the project. MALT staff also participated in the construction while providing guidance and expertise. Long-term monitoring of aspen growth within the exclosure will be completed by MALT. Considering the project had excellent planning and partners, MALT anticipates positive results inside the exclosure as well as the entire area for many years to come.

Beaver Brook Watershed Noxious Weed Eradication

The Beaver Brook Watershed (BBW) is one of the many natural resource gems in Colorado’s Front Range. The BBW encompasses a total of 6,000 acres. U.S. Forest Service owns a majority of the land in the BBW; however, Clear Creek County Open Space owns 540 acres over which MALT holds a Conservation Easement.

The BBW is located 3.5 miles west of Bergen Park on Squaw Pass Road, the westward continuation of Jefferson County Route 66. The region’s stunning beauty encompasses a relatively intact ecosystem, joining with surrounding lands to form a 17-mile wildlife and open space corridor from the Mt. Evans Wilderness to Elk Meadow Park in Evergreen. Snowmelt from Mt. Evans fills several reservoirs in the Watershed, supplying water for Clear Creek High School and 500 homes on Lookout Mountain.

Recently, noxious weeds have been invading portions of the BBW, especially in areas with public access trails. Noxious weeds like Musk thistle and Common mullein are disruptive to natural ecological processes. They are aggressive plants with the ability to outcompete native vegetation. Wildlife such as deer and elk find them unpalatable, further encouraging their persistence.

This is why MALT, Clear Creek County Open Space and the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture worked together to conduct a noxious weed eradication event this past summer. Crews from each entity worked all day to spray, pull and remove noxious weeds in two areas containing public hiking trails. Spraying herbicide was targeted only to noxious weeds and completed in a manner consistent with Clear Creek County’s Noxious Weed Management Plan. The treatment was done at time when many of the plants’ rosettes had not gone to seed, limiting the likelihood of future infestation. Whilst the project required heavy lifting and hard work, the work completed will have a long-lasting, positive impact on the natural resources and enjoyment of recreation seekers.
This project truly was a collaborative effort. MALT would like to thank Ted Brown, Clear Creek County Weed Supervisor, and his work-crew as well as Patty York, Early Detection and Rapid Response Specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, for their coordination and expertise in seeing this project through to completion.

Summer Hiking with MALT

MALT’s Conservation Easements greatly benefit the public by protecting natural resources such as water and soil, scenic views and wildlife habitat. Fortunately, some of our Conservation Easements allow for public access, notably Beaver Brook Watershed in Clear Creek County, and MALT’s newest purchase, Pennsylvania Mountain Natural Area, in Park County.

In 2014, MALT decided to launch a Summer Hiking Program to help get members of the public on these properties. Many people attended seven hikes from June to August. Hikes included history on how these properties became conserved and information about wildlife, geology and other natural processes occurring on the land. Some of the notable activities on hikes were learning how to identify common wildlife and wildflowers as well as determine the differences between pine, fir and spruce trees.

One hike at the PMNA was lucky to include Professor Candace Galen of Biological Sciences at Missouri University. She has conducted research at PMNA since the 1970’s, focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on the pollination of the alpine flower, Sky Pilot. Twenty-five research students also attended the hike. Professor Galen, along with the attendees, was able to provide in-depth information on wildlife, plant communities and changing environmental conditions at the PMNA.

The success of the Summer Hiking Program could not have been accomplished without the help of summer intern Susanna Brauer. Susanna is currently in her senior year at Metro State University (MSU) completing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental Science with a special focus on Ecological Restoration. She expects to graduate in May 2015. Susanna is also active with the Colorado Wildlife Federation’s MSU Denver Chapter and serves as the Youth Board Director for the Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, CO.

Though MALT was sad to say good-bye to Susanna, we know she will carry the values she was able to foster at MALT with her forever. “I wish to take ownership of my local wild places and help empower others to do the same,” stated Susanna early in her internship. In 2015, MALT hopes to get more people on hikes so they can learn and connect with the beautiful properties they help conserve. Stay tuned!