Two Kremmling area residents are receiving special attention from the federal government because they're one of a kind: the Kremmling Osterhout milkvetch and the Kremmling beardtongue.
A tour organized last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative offered a look at two endangered plants and highlighted the achievements of the Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative in conserving and protecting the two plant species.
The two plants highlighted during the tour were the Kremmling beardtongue, which belongs to the plantain family and has tubular blue-purple flowers, and the Kremmling milkvetch, a member of the pea family with large white flowers that fruit into 2-inch long maroon colored pods.
Both plants are known to be found only in the Middle Park area in the selenium-rich clay shales of the Troublesome and Niobrara formations.
The Kremmling beardtongue is known to exist only in the one population on a barren hillside in the Troublesome Creek area, making the species a local treasure.
"Because this species only exists in this area it is imperative that we take steps to protect its habitat," said Megan McGuire, a wildlife biologist for the Bureau of Land Management.
"It's like having all of your eggs in one basket," she said.
These plants face many dangers including off-highway vehicle recreation, oil and gas exploration, mining, concentrated livestock use, and land development.
The Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative has conducted outreach for many rare or endangered plants across the state and the two plants that were shown during the tour are some of the most rare in Colorado.
The last stop on the tour took place at the State Land Board Kremmling Parcel, which is also known as "Idiot's Hill."
This area was formerly well known by the locals as an off-highway vehicle recreational area but has recently been closed to off-highway vehicle use.
An educational kiosk was constructed to help inform off-highway vehicle operators about the endangered plant and to educate others about the dangers the plant faces.
Idiot's Hill has been blocked to off-highway vehicles and other uses and has since begun to recover from previous uses.
The Kremmling Osterhout milkvetch is found in an area north and west of Kremmling stretching east to Parshall. Poisonous to livestock, it concentrates selenium in its leaves and is characterized by a strong garlic-like odor.
Much work still needs to be done to protect these and other species of endangered or imperiled plants, officials say. To receive more information about these plants or to volunteer to help to protect these and other plants, contact Gina Glenne of the Fish and Wildlife Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteer opportunities include surveys, site monitoring, participation in research, and other conservation projects.
Conservation funding is also available to private land owners who believe they might have these plants on their land.
Before the tour the Recovery Champions award was presented by Mike Thaubault, assistant regional director for ecological services of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region, to four recipients:
• Betsy Neely, a senior conservation planner for the Nature Conservancy of Colorado;
• Susan Spackman Panjabi, a botanist for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program;
• Brian Kurgel, program director for the Colorado Natural Areas Program;
• And Jennifer Neale, director of research and conservation for Denver Botanic Gardens
The award was presented to the Colorado Rare Plants Conservation Initiative as a whole and to the four individuals in honor of their contributions on behalf of their organizations.
The Rare Plants Conservation Initiative is a partnership of 22 statewide and regional agencies, private organizations, and academic institutions who cooperatively developed Colorado's first Rare Plant Conservation Strategy.
The purpose of the strategy is to protect and conserve all of Colorado's 121 imperiled plants and their habitats to preserve them for future generations.