Vegetation Science Has Deep Roots in Western Colorado’s NCAs

Even though Colorado’s western slope is harsh, dry, and dominated by soaring cliffs and canyons, this environment is also home to many unique plant communities. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) uses science to ensure that all the resources of our shared public lands are in good health and will continue to flourish for future generations. To that end, the BLM Grand Junction and Uncompahgre Field Offices, in conjunction with Colorado State University, have recently published research on the work being done to monitor the health of these ecosystems and how to restore them after devastating impacts such as fires and invasive species.


 Wrigley burned area in 2015, 3 years after the 2012 wildfire. Photo courtesy of BLM McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.

Wrigley burned area in 2015, 3 years after the 2012 wildfire. Photo courtesy of BLM McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.

The first study was done by BLM Grand Junction Field Office and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area staff on post-fire plant communities in burned areas to better understand if seeding these locations promoted native vegetation regrowth. The research found that restoration after a fire is very complex, and seeding, especially in locations with low precipitation, does not always guarantee a consistent result. Precipitation directly after a fire makes a huge difference, and if precipitation does not occur in conjunction with seeding for native species recovery, the seeding may not be successful without intervention. The research article is titled ‘Post-fire Native Seed Use in Western Colorado: A Look at Burned and Unburned Vegetation Communities’ and was published in the Natural Areas Journal.

The BLM Grand Junction and Uncompahgre Field Offices, in partnership with Colorado State University, also recently published research studying restoration in salt desert communities to learn from past-management efforts and inform future management decisions.

The research found that restoration in salt deserts is difficult, and that sites affected by wildfires and soil disturbing treatments are the most different from reference sites. Invasive annual plants also influence disturbed sites. Seeding with native seed mixes is an important management tool, and this research suggests that disturbance type and management approaches can have a large impact on restoration success in these areas. The research article is titled ‘Restoration of North American salt deserts: A look at the past and suggestions for the future’ and can be found in the journal Ecological Restoration.

Congress set aside the National Conservation Areas (NCAs) of western Colorado for numerous reasons, and functioning as a natural laboratory for sciences such as biology, archaeology, and paleontology is one of those reasons. We’re proud to support scientific research within the NCAs.