COSA is a statewide organization of open space programs whose mission is to work cooperatively, share information, create public awareness and foster partnerships to protect Colorado’s wild places. Smith Environmental and Engineering was able to be a sponsor of and also attend the meeting this year in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
The theme for the conference was “Collaborative Conservation – The Cutting Edge” and a wide variety of topics surrounding collaboration were discussed. Session topics ranged from how to engage stakeholders to developing energy plans through collaboration between conservation entities and the oil and gas industry. The latter topic was of particular interest because it involves working proactively to minimize the surface impacts to wildlife habitat (through direct loss and degradation from fragmentation), wetlands and wetland function, culturally important sites, and other sensitive, high-valued lands. The collaborative process is called Energy by Design and is spearheaded by the Nature Conservancy. During a session on this topic, the City of Fort Collins described the results of a collaboration between Larimer County, the Nature Conservancy, and the State Land Board to develop an Energy by Design plan for oil and gas development at the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, Red Mountain Open Space and the Meadow Springs Ranch in north Larimer County. The links above connect to more information about Energy by Design.
As a break from long hours in sessions, the conference scheduled a day of field trips to local open space areas. We attended a tour of Yampa River restoration projects given by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission. Historically, as the River’s channel alignment shifts through bank erosion, it was able to naturally move throughout the valley that is now occupied by Steamboat Springs and other development. Natural channel realignment is now constrained by roads and railroad tracks; however, the river’s channel continues to move. The CPW is continually seeking funds to implement projects that limit bank erosion (currently up to four feet per year) and to improve both native and sport fish habitat.
Overall, the conference was a great way to learn more about the community of open space professionals, get to know and learn more about the clients we often work with, and meet new people. More information about COSA and the conference can be found here. We give our thanks to Tina Nielsen, Special Projects Manager for the Boulder County Parks & Open Space and to COSA for putting together such an outstanding event and inviting SMITH to be part of it.
Blog and Images by Darrin Masters