Northern Larimer County HPP Area Description
Located along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Northern Larimer County Habitat Partnership Program includes portions of deer and elk data analysis unit (DAU) 4, including Game Management Units (GMU) 7, 8, 9, 19 and 191. The HPP also incorporates Bear DAU 3, Mountain Lion DAU 4, Antelope DAU 33 (GMU 7 and 8), Antelope DAU 36 (GMU 9, 19, and 191) and Bighorn Sheep Units 1, and 18 within its boundary.
The HPP is bounded on the north by the Wyoming border, on the east by Interstate 25, on the west by the divide of the Medicine Bow Mountains (the Jackson, Larimer County line), and on the south by Harmony Rd., Larimer CRs 19, 38 E, 27, & 44H, the Elk CK-Pennock CK Div and RMNP. The area of the HPP is approximately 1,134,650 acres, or 1,775 square miles. The NLCHPP extends from approximately 5,000 feet in elevation along the east boundary to 12,644 feet at South Rawah Peak on the west.
Because of variation in elevation and topography within the NLCHPP, there are significant differences in habitat types. Piedmont plains characterized by aeolian soils are found from I-25 west to the sedimentary hogback ridges along US Highway 287. West of Highway 287, the plains give way to rolling hills and ridges of metamorphic and igneous rock composing the Laramie Range, and ultimately to the high peaks of the Medicine Bow Mountains.
From I-25 west to the Livermore area the predominant habitat is short-grass prairies characterized by buffalo and blue grama grasses. Portions of the plains are farmed using irrigated and dryland agricultural practices. West of Highway 287 and scattered throughout the Laramie Foothills mixed-grass prairie and mosaic grasslands are cut by montane cliff and canyon systems, foothills shrublands on slopes, pinyon-juniper woodlands on hogbacks, with stands of Ponderosa Pine-spruce/fir forest. Subalpine forests of Lodgepole Pine, spruce and fir are found along the upper Poudre River, Green Ridge, Deadman Ridge, Bull Mountain and in the Medicine Bows. Open stands of aspen can be seen throughout the mountainous areas of the HPP. Higher elevations of the Medicine Bows (Rawah Wilderness) include krumholtz forest and grasses typical of the alpine zone.
The western portion of the HPP is drained by the Laramie River, which flows north into Wyoming. The North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River drains the north central portion of the NLCHPP. The southern side of the HPP is drained by the Cache la Poudre River, and its tributaries. Intermittent drainages and small perennial streams flow across ranches and farms in the eastern third of the HPP. These rivers, streams and tributaries course through all elevations within the HPP and give rise to riparian plant communities. Narrow-leaf Cottonwood, Peach-leaf Cottonwood, willow, alder, River Birch, Chokecherry, miscellaneous species of wet meadow grasses, sedge, rushes, mesic forbs and cattails provide essential habitat for diverse terrestrial and aquatic species, including: Johnny Darter, Iowa Darter, Green-back Cutthroat Trout, Golden Eagle, American Bald Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Lazuli Bunting, Hermit Thrush, American Dipper, McCowen’s Longspur, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Lark Bunting, Thirteen –lined Ground Squirrel, Mexican Woodrat, Pronghorn, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Rocky Mountain Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Lion, Black Bear, and Bobcat. Riparian sites in the HPP provide essential habitat for Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse, listed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Colorado as a threatened species, as well habitat for the Boreal Toad (State Endangered) and the Wood Frog (Species of Concern). Wetlands, ponds, marshes and streams are also rich in invertebrate diversity. Shortgrass prairies along the piedmont plains also provide habitat for Black-tailed prairie dogs, Burrowing Owls(state threatened), and Mountain Plover, Northern Leopard Frog, Common Garter Snake, Swift Fox and Northern Pocket Gopher, all of which are listed by Colorado as Species of Concern. Several plant species that are listed by the State or Federal government may also be found within the NLCHPP area.
Throughout history diverse natural processes have influenced the balance of the various ecosystems found in this area. Human activities involved in land management may impact ecological processes and consequently plant communities and animal populations. In some cases changes caused by human activities benefit wildlife, and in other cases impacts may be deleterious. Diminished availability of quality water, interruption of natural fire cycles, proliferation of nonnative invasive species, inappropriate recreational use of lands, and habitat fragmentation are a few examples of human influences that may negatively impact natural resources.
Approximately 50% of Larimer County is in public ownership. Within the NLCHPP approximately 48% of the land is privately owned. The Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest is the predominant public landowner in the NLCHPP, holding approximately 44% of all lands. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management controls approximately 43 square miles of property in the Laramie Valley and Bull Mountain area south of the Wyoming border. The Colorado Division of Wildlife manages over 27,000 acres, including the 4 units of the Cherokee State Wildlife Area within the NLCHPP. The Colorado State Land Board owns and manages numerous sections of land within the NLCHPP. In total, State agencies hold 5.8% of all lands in the NLCHPP. Larimer County Department of Natural Resources owns and manages approximately 15,735 acres and holds 2216 acres of conservation easements within the NLCHPP. The City of Fort Collins owns and manages over 40,000 acres within the NLCHPP and has interest in 290 acres of the conservation easements held by Larimer County in the Livermore area. The Nature Conservancy, a private non-profit conservation organization, owns approximately 2,200 acres including Phantom Canyon Preserve and holds conservation easements on 25,000 acres in the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre watershed. Legacy Land Trust, a non-profit local land trust, holds conservation easements on 2,300 acres of private lands within the area. Several irrigation companies, which are generally publicly owned corporations, manage facilities to provide irrigation water to their customers.
In northern Larimer County, public and private partners have worked together on land management issues. As an example, the Laramie Foothills Advisory Committee was established in 1995. This is a group of diverse watershed interests working to develop creative solutions to land use and land management challenges. The Committee has worked cooperatively with private ranchers and land use agencies on strategies to optimize grazing and weed management to improve habitat quality. The North Fork
Weed Cooperative operates to promote integrated management of non-native plant species in the watershed across public and private lands. The Livermore Area Habitat Conservation Plan has been adopted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to provide a coordinated management effort to protect habitat for Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse, Zapus hudsonius preblei, listed federally, and by the State of Colorado as a threatened sub-species. The habitat conservation plan is an effort to maintain traditional land uses while conforming to the Endangered Species Act goal of protecting habitat for PMJM. Private interests have teamed with federal, state, and local agencies to address the challenge of reintroducing ecologically appropriate and safe fire into the watershed. Additionally, subdivisions within the NLCHPP have homeowner’s associations that make natural resource management decisions on their lands. A place-based education program called the Poudre River Ecology Partnership (PREP) is a collaborative effort involving the local Poudre School District’s Mountain Schools, coupled with private partners and public agencies. Through PREP, students learn about the value of natural resource conservation for wildlife and people, in their own community.