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The Next 40 Years: Jeffco Open Space Conservation Conference

Date: November 16, 2013

Location: Jeffco Fairgrounds, Main Exhibition Hall

Article by: Michelle Poolet and Vicky Gits

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation

Purchase your full copy
of the November Conference Proceedings
& Presentations

"The Next 40 Years: Jeffco Open Space Conservation Conference"

Conference held on Nov. 16, 2013
at Jeffco Fairgrounds.

The proceedings of the conference, including full write-ups and slides used by the presenters, are available as a 45 page printed Report or digitally on CD. The cost for the printed copy is $10 (postage paid) and the CD version is $5 (postage paid). The proceedings can be ordered online with a credit card or send a check by mail—purchase your copy today »

To honor the conception of the open space program as well as 40+ years of service as a watchdog and supporter, PLAN Jeffco gathered together prominent experts to present their findings on a wide variety of conservation issues. About 180 people attended the half-day event, which took place Nov. 16 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

Nine speakers took the podium to address various subjects, from a five-year master plan to tracking mountain lions. Presenters also discussed climate change, state demographics, recreation trends, biodiversity, animal habitat, the economy and the impact of access to nature on public health.

The program as a whole served to illustrate that the 40-year-old open space movement continues to grow in relevance and importance as the year's progress. Open space has become the focus of attention not only for nature lovers and hikers but also in terms of public health, workforce appeal, economic benefits and preservation of habitat.

The following reports are summaries of the speakers' comments from the conference. A more detailed report on the talks will be made available at a later date.

1. Amy Ito, Park Planning and Construction Manager, Jeffco Open Space: “The 2014 Jeffco Open Space Master Plan Process.”

The revised final draft of the 2014 Master Plan is posted at http://jeffco.us/parks/about/open-space-masterplan. This update sets the priorities for the next five years of Open Space activities. The predominant themes include balancing natural resources preservation with outdoor recreation, and building trust by creating confidence with transparency and reliability. The main mission of the Open Space program is to acquire open space and park lands.

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation The Master Plan update sets the criteria for future land acquisitions in terms of priorities, approaches and process. The Plan reflects trends such as the growing recognition of the connection between public health and the outdoors. In surveys, contacts and public meetings, Open Space officials have clearly noted the desire of the population for more trails and open space parks. At the same time, people have far less free time than ever and children are less connected to nature than ever.

While there have been six Master Plan updates over the years, Ito said this is the first plan in which the staff has aimed to create measurable goals. See the adopted goals in the Master Plan Article.

2. Scott Babcock, Planning Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife: “Outdoor Recreation and Participation Trends in the Front Range.”

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation Recreation in Colorado is a big business; recreation activities are estimated to run in the range of $21 billion per year. Understanding who recreates, what they do when they recreate, and what they would like to see as future recreation, is imperative to our state's economy.

Colorado has a statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan, or SCORP, which is updated every five years. This allows Colorado to maintain its eligibility for Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund allocations. The purpose of SCORP is to inventory outdoor recreation supply and demand; recommend strategies to maintain and improve Colorado's outdoor recreation heritage; support local and statewide initiatives guiding the long-term maintenance and enhancement of outdoor recreation resources; and allows for strategic allocation of limited funds.

People travel to recreate, with 80 percent of respondents indicating they do day trips. The most active recreation areas are in north central and northwest Colorado, and in the Metro area. There are some factors that influence the use of a recreational area: cleanliness, travel distance, and entrance fees are the top three. However, 60 percent of respondents opted for wilderness areas or open lands with little or no development. This seems to point to a priority for future investment – wildlands, which offer solitude and open space.

The draft plan, of which this survey is part, will be available in early 2014, for public input. For more information or to get involved, go to www.coloradoscorp.org.

3. While the Colorado outdoor lifestyle is highly valued for it health benefits, the fact is more people have become substantially more unhealthy in Jefferson County in recent years, observed Dr. Mark B. Johnson, executive director of the Jeffco Department of Health and Environment. Johnson did not sugarcoat the facts in a revealing talk, “Health and the Outdoors.”

A Jeffco community health assessment found that in the last seven years adult obesity was up 59% and adult diabetes up 89%. The number of adults who don't exercise was up 14%, Johnson said. In 2010 only 25% of adults engaged in outdoor activity.

Nationally, Americans spend 90% of their day indoors or in a car. Children spend 6 to 7 hours per day looking at a screen and only 4 to 7 minutes in unstructured play. “When we were children we were outdoors. Now that it's healthy (to be outdoors) kids are staying inside. Childhood obesity rates have doubled in the last two decades,” Johnson said.

Research has established that walking at least a half hour per day can reduce heart disease by 40%. Exercise also helps reduce breast cancer, depression, colon cancer, osteoporosis and impotence. Research shows that increased time spent outdoors increases life expectancy, helps lower blood pressure, and decreases attention deficit disorder.

What are health department recommendations?

1. Get outdoors and do something.

2. Provide an hour a day of unstructured time for preschoolers and toddlers.

3. Adults should get 20 minutes of vigorous exercise per day.

4. Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder: “The Science of Climate Change: from Global to Local.”

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation Dr. Trenberth was a lead author of the 1995, 2001 and 2007 Scientific Assessment of Climate Change reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Climate change is happening, and the evidence points definitively to human activity. Burning more fossil fuels (carbon-based) puts more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (a 40% increase in CO2 in the last 120 years). The increase in CO in the 2 atmosphere is accompanied by increasing air temperatures; the sea ice melts and the oceans get warmer, and land ice (glaciers) melt, which lets the land warm up once it loses its icy blanket. Melting sea ice causes the ocean levels to rise. Warmer air can hold more moisture than cold air, and the abundance of water and heat creates more evaporation into the atmosphere. When cold air masses meet this warm, wet air, storms develop. The storms run the gamut from small, isolated thunderstorm cells to massive hurricanes, tornadoes, and cyclones. The warm, wet air is the storm's ammunition, and the more warm, wet air there is, the bigger and more destructive the storm.

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation Climate change for the Colorado mountains will likely be manifested by shorter snow seasons, retreating glaciers, bigger snowfalls in mid-winter (warmer air = more moisture=more snow), earlier snowmelt in the springtime, a smaller snowpack in May and June, less water in the summertime accompanied with a greater risk of drought and wildfire.

Global ocean heat content data. Pink effect of volcanoes. Blue efffect of El Nino. 1997-1998 El Nino. 1998 was warmest year of the 20th centurybecause of heat coming out of the ocean.

5. Macroeconomist Grant Nulle, of the Colorado Demography Office, Colorado Department of Local Affairs, focused on “Economic and Demographic Trends in the Denver Region.”

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation Employment is on the upswing and population in Colorado is resuming its historical growth profile after five years of economic distress. Thanks to the expected increasing age of the population, the bulk of the new jobs will be household-related, as opposed to ones in traditional base industries like agriculture, oil and gas, manufacturing and government. In addition to aging, the state profile is characterized by a large number of new people moving to the state and a correlation between job growth and people moving to Colorado, which is attractive because of its jobs, and a traditionally lower unemployment rate. Colorado is an attractive place for the 25-to-34-year-olds.

The state used to have the fourth lowest share of over-65-year-olds in the country, but with so many baby boomers moving to the state, the proportion of oldsters is getting larger. The aging trend means there will be a lot more people at home during the day, not working as much and more older people using our open space parks.

The lower per-capita income associated with the aging population means less sales-tax revenue as retirees demand more in the way of public services and spend less money on the type of goods that generate sales tax.

6. John Sovall, Biologist/Ecologist, Colorado Natural Heritage Program, CSU, presented for both himself and Pam Smith, Field Botanist/Ecologist, CSU Botany Team, Colorado Natural Heritage Program.

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation The original 1993 Colorado National Heritage Program report was funded by Jeffco Open Space. The results of that survey were used by JCOS to orient their acquisition and preservation activities. In 2011 the Colorado Natural Heritage Program was retained by JCOS to revisit Jefferson County and re-survey. This survey also included funding from the EPA for surveying wetlands. The newer survey has produced some amazing results: 34 rare plants, 11 rare animals, 29 rare plant communities, and a new fungus not seen before in Jeffco.

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation The locations where these populations have been found are called Potential Conservation Areas (PCAs). It is Sovall's opinion that Jefferson County is very rich in biodiversity because of past and current efforts to preserve these PCAs including efforts by Jeffco Open Space.

Biodiversity makes for a better quality of life for resident human populations (as well as for the plant and animal communities) in the county. The best way to conserve these critical sites for biodiversity is to protect large, unaltered, and unfragmented landscapes. Open space, especially riparian habitat, acts to sequester carbon and ameliorate climate change. The wetlands areas act as freshwater storage systems, where large, undisrupted riparian landscapes can help mitigate the effects of massive erosional episodes (mudslides).

7. Dr. Sarah Thomas, Center of the American West, and Dr. Sarah Reed, Colorado State University: “Balancing Recreational Access and Conservation Objectives in Open Space Programs.”

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation While the demand for protection of public land for recreation purposes has increased significantly since the '50s, much more research needs to be done on the impact of outdoor recreation on wild animals and their habitats.

There is “limited awareness about the inconsistency between wildlife protection and outdoor recreation,” Thomas said. People tend to blame industries like mining and skiing other than their own activities (“the finger-pointing factor”) for negative impacts on animals. The impact on wildlife is subtle and not that obvious to park users (“the scale” and “visibility” factors.)

There is relatively little research on the impact of recreation on wildlife, Reed said, but some impacts are established:

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation 1. Outdoor recreation results in habitat loss and fragmentation of habitat.

2. The composition and diversity of species changes as the human-adapted species (foxes, skunks, etc.) increase.

3. In one study, outdoor recreation affected rhe reproduction and survival rates of the woodlark.

4. In a Swiss study, flushing by skiers and snowboarders produced elevated stress levels in black grouse.

Thomas identified two key questions for land managers:

1. Determine which parcels are most appropriate for coexistence of recreation and resource protection.

2. Determine which lands are best managed exclusively for one of the objectives.

The reality is that outdoor recreation is in demand and it has an impact on resident species.

8. Dr. Mat Alldredge, Wildlife Researcher with Colorado Parks and Wildlife: “Impacts of Humans on Wildlife in the Front Range.”

The Next 40 Years - Jeffco Open Space Conservation Global land use change due to human impact is altering the predator-prey dynamics. Our propensity to suppress fire results in catastrophic wildfire events. Our road-building is fragmenting habitat and altering food availability. Decorating our yards with succulent plantings draws ungulates (deer, elk) closer to human habitation, exposing them to higher rates of unnatural mortality (road kill). The prey animals draw in the predators, which then begin to prey on domestic animals. Bears, being opportunists, are adapting to foraging in the urban environment, and many of the prey are taking advantage of our human lawns and gardens.

Dr. Alldredge has been studying mountain lions in the Front Range. Of the 79 cats studied, there have been 54 mortalities, mostly due to road kill, hunting, and other types of human interaction. He's been able to demonstrate that lions disperse over ranges that span multiple western states (Evergreen to Wyoming, Estes Park to New Mexico, South Dakota to C-470), and that lions hang out in the urban outskirts during the day, but move into the suburbs and cities to hunt during the nighttime. For sub-adult males and females with cubs, the risk of human interaction is apparently worth having a consistent food supply.


More about the event:

PLAN Jeffco Annual Dinner with the

Wild about Nature: Celebrating 42 Years of Open Space

May 8th, 2014

Ian Billick spoke on

"Science and Land Conservation: Building a Better Tomorrow"

The Vista at Applewood Golf Course

14001 West 32nd Ave Golden, Colorado 80401


Ian Billick, PhD

Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
in Crested Butte and Gothic


“Science and Land Conservation: Building a Better Tomorrow”

Dr. Billick first started attending the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in 1988 as a student. He conducted his graduate work on ants in Virginia Basin, above Gothic, eventually receiving his PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 1997. He held positions at the University of Houston and Truman State University before becoming the Executive Director of the RMBL in 2000. He lives in Crested Butte South with his wife, Dr. Jennifer Reithel, and his two sons, Cormac and Giles.


Click to read the PRESS RELEASE for the Wild about Nature Celebrating 42 Years of Open Space, PLAN Jeffco Annual Dinner with the Commissioners for May 8th, 2014

He mountain bikes and loves skiing with his sons. He is quite interested in the interface between science and policy.

The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory was founded in 1928, to provide a living laboratory for field and research scientists in the abandoned mining town of Gothic. Since that date, thousands of students and scientists have studied and documented the ecosystems around Gothic, in the process making RMBL an internationally renowned center for scientific research and education.

Click to enlarge - The Next 40 Years: Jeffco Open Space Conservation Conference

Click to view our announcement: Postcard

PLAN Jeffco, with co-sponsorship from the Open Space Department and the Open Space Foundation, held a conference November 16, 2013 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds (see full list of co-sponsors below). The conference focused on The Next 40 Years of Jeffco Open Space Conservation. The conference was held on that Saturday morning, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Registration & Breakfast began at 8:30 am. Admission was $10/per person. Refreshments were available, with warm burritos for the mid-conference break.

The Next 40 Years: Jeffco Open Space Conservation Conference

Conference Program: click here

Press Release: click here

Attendees Received:

1.5 Continuing Education Credits from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).


to Learn

Conference Topics
& Speakers

What the demographics of the metro area are and how they will change.

How the recreation needs of the population will change.

How local climate change will affect the parks.

How outdoor activities benefit the populace.

How to balance expanding the areas of preservation with increased use of the parks.

How Jeffco Parks (Open Space, Fairgrounds, CSU Extension) plan to accommodate these changes.

Ten experts will discuss recreation trends and the future of Open Space conservation in Colorado:

Jeffco 2013 Parks Plan Update
Amy Ito, Planning and Construction Manager, Jeffco Open Space Department

Outdoor Recreation Participation Trends
Scott Babcock, Planning Manager, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Health and the Outdoors
Dr. Mark B. Johnson, Executive Director of Jefferson County Department of Health and the Environment

Economic & Demographic Trends in the Denver Region
Grant Nülle, Macroeconomist, State Demography Office, Colorado Department of Local Affairs

The Science of Climate Change
Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth, a Distinguished Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), will be speaking in place of Dr. Jim Hurrell, Director of Earth Science Laboratory at NCAR.

Jeffco Survey of Critical Biological Resources/the Benefits of Conserving Bidiversity
John Sovall/Pam Smith, Colorado State University, Colorado Natural Heritage Program

Balancing Recreation Access & Conservation Objectives in Open Space Programs
Dr. Sarah Reed/Dr. Sarah L. Thomas, Colorado State University/Center for the American West at University of Colorado

Impacts of Humans on Wildlife in the Front Range
Dr. Mat Alldredge, Wildlife Researcher, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

See Presenter Biographies »


This conference was co-sponsored by the Jefferson County Open Space Division & the Jeffco Open Space Foundation. The following groups also provided support for this conference:

Audubon Society of Greater Denver

Canyon Area Residents for the Environment

Clear Creek Land Conservancy

Colorado Chapter- American Planning Assoc

Colorado Mountain Club

Colorado Open Lands

Colorado Wildlife Federation

Denver Mountain Parks Foundation

Douglas Land Conservancy

Friends of the Foothills

Jefferson County Historical Society

League of Women Voters of Jefferson County

Mountain Area Land Trust

Save the Mesas


Wilderness Awareness and Education Institute

Presenter Biographies:

Amy Ito

Ms. Ito manages design, planning, real estate and construction staff, and consultants who develop plans for acquisition proposals, park management planning and reporting, construction and associated capital budget plans, as well as the Department's Master Plan. She has worked for Jefferson County for 10 years. Prior to Jefferson County, Amy was the Community Development Director for the Town of Frisco for 11 years, overseeing the building and planning departments. She has a Master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP), from the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD), and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies, from the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC).

Scott Babcock

Scott Babcock is Planning Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Scott is a is a native Coloradan that developed a lifelong passion for parks and wild, open spaces at an early age. That same passion led him to a career in land use, natural resource, and outdoor recreation planning. Scott has served for over seven years as planning manager at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, where he has worked on a variety of park management plans, statewide and regional outdoor recreation plans, and Division-wide strategic planning efforts. He also spent seven years in the private sector as a natural resource planner. Scott graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with BS degrees in Biology and Environmental Science and has a Masters of Environmental Management degree in Resource Economics and Policy from Duke University. In his free time, Scott enjoys hiking, fishing, camping, bicycling, and generally spending time outdoors with his wife, Kelly, and two children (Claire (8) and Tyler (7)).

Dr. Mark B. Johnson

Dr. Johnson has been the Executive Director of the Jefferson County Department of Health and Environment since April, 1990. He was raised in Grand Junction, Colorado, and attended Campion Academy, in Loveland, Colorado, and Pacific Union College, in northern California, before going to medical school at Loma Linda University in southern California. He has served for three years as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Public Health Service in the National Health Service Corps, and was discharged as a Lt. Colonel after serving for seven years in the Army Reserves.

Dr. Johnson received his medical specialty training and Masters of Public Health degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and became board certified in Preventive Medicine and Public Health in 1988. He served as the Medical Director for the Center for Health Promotion at Loma Linda University, then as the Director for Preventive Medicine Services and State Epidemiologist in Wyoming before moving back to Colorado in 1990.

He is the past President of the American College of Preventive Medicine, has been the President of both the Wyoming and Colorado Public Health Associations, and has served as the Secretary and Treasurer of the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is the past Chair of the Preventive Medicine Residency Review Committee for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), and the past Chair of the Governing Board of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. He currently serves on the Executive Committee for the Board of Trustees for the Adventist Health System in Orlando, Florida, and is on the Centura Health System Board of Trustees in Denver, Colorado.

Dr. Johnson was a member of the steering committee for the establishment of the Colorado School of Public Health, serving as the Designated Institutional Official for its medical residency programs, and teaches a course in the school on the history of public health. Economic & Demographic Trends in the Denver Region.

Grant Nülle

Grant Nülle is a Macroeconomist at the State Demography Office, Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Grant produces Colorado job estimates and forecasts by industry region, and county. He also produces base industry analyses to determine economic drivers by Colorado county. Grant is responsible for forecasting State Severance Tax and Federal Mineral Lease collections arising from oil and gas production that are used for program planning within the Department. Prior to joining the State Demography Office, Grant worked as a fiscal and economic policy director for the Arizona House of Representatives. A native of Wyoming, Grant earned his MBA from the University of Arizona, his MS in Mineral & Energy Economics from Colorado School of Mines, and is a Ph.D. candidate currently writing his dissertation in the same program.

Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth

Kevin Trenberth is a Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. From New Zealand, he obtained his Sc. D. in meteorology in 1972 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a lead author of the 1995, 2001 and 2007 Scientific Assessment of Climate Change reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize which went to the IPCC. He served from 1999 to 2006 on the Joint Scientific Committee of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and he chaired the WCRP Observation and Assimilation Panel from 2004 to 2010 and now chairs the Global Energy and Water Exchanges (GEWEX) scientific steering group. He has also served on many national committees. He is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the American Association for Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 2000 he received the Jule G. Charney award from the AMS; in 2003 he was given the NCAR Distinguished Achievement Award; and in 2013 he was awarded the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water. He edited a 788 page book Climate System Modeling, published in 1992 and has published 500 scientific articles or papers, including 53 books or book chapters, and over 225 refereed journal articles. He has given many invited scientific talks as well as appearing in a number of television, radio programs and newspaper articles. He is listed among the top 20 authors in highest citations in all of geophysics.

John Sovall/Pam Smith

John Sovell is a Biologist/Ecologist at the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University. Mr. Sovell acquired a Master's Degree in Zoology from the University of Alberta and B.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Minnesota. Currently he is involved in numerous projects associated with the conservation of sensitive and rare animal species in Colorado.

Pam Smith is a Field Botanist/Ecologist with Colorado State University and a member of the Botany Team of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. The CNHP Botany Team tracks the location and condition of over 500 globally and/or state imperiled plants in an effort to guide effective management and protection of those species and thereby prevent extinctions or statewide extirpations of Colorado's native plant species.

Dr. Sarah Reed/Dr. Sarah L. Thomas

Dr. Sarah Reed is an Associate Conservation Scientist with the North America Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society and an Affiliate Faculty member in the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Biology at Colorado State University. Sarah's research focuses on the effects of land development and human activities on wildlife and biodiversity, and she works with communities, government agencies, and decision-makers to apply ecological science to conservation planning and land-use policy.

Dr. Sarah Thomas is a visiting fellow at the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her current research examines the socio-economic, political, and policy implications of land use change in the U.S. West, particularly the impacts of amenity-based development and outdoor recreation for rural communities. She holds a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and BA in History and Literature.

Dr. Mat Alldredge

Dr. Alldredge has a Ph.D. in Zoology and Biomathematics from North Carolina State University, Masters degrees in Biomathematics (North Carolina State University) and Wildlife Resources (University of Idaho). He began his educational journey at the University of Colorado, where he earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Alldredge is currently a Wildlife Researcher with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and as such he studies large carnivore and hoofed animal ecology, their population parameters and habitat use. In addition, he studies avian ecology and population sampling. Two of his current research projects include “large carnivore-human interactions along Colorado's Front Range – evaluating statistical methods to estimate population density and presence”, and “predator-prey dynamics of cougars in relation to prey availability and human density”.

In addition to his research, Dr. Alldredge finds time to teach classes for the mark-recapture program (MARK) and for the National Conservation Training Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is a member of The Wildlife Society, American Ornithologists' Union, and he's chair of the Animal Care and Use Committee. Dr. Alldredge is also an Affiliate Faculty at both Colorado State University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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