The Stewardship Planning Process
Since 1999 Stewardship has been conducting biological surveys at a few parks a year and then producing a comprehensive resource plan. The format of our plan is based on methods the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service use for their planning, but with significant input from Bob Finch, Mark Gershman, Rob Billerbeck and many park managers to the make the process specific and appropriate for Colorado State Parks. The biological surveys usually consist of mapping and assessing the condition of the vegetative communities at the park. This is particularly useful for development and resource protection planning, as it points out clearly and simply to the park staff what areas are in poor to fair condition that need improvement and what areas are in good to excellent condition that require protection. Various other surveys are conducted, as needed, such as surveys for particular rare plants and animals, mapping of habitat for threatened and endangered species, mapping of noxious weeds, aquatic nuisance species and erosion issues.
The information gathered from field surveys and background research is then pulled together in a comprehensive Stewardship Plan. The Plan has clear resource protection objectives for the park, such as "maintain 35 acres of riparian shrubland in good to excellent condition" or "maintain nesting habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds on the east side of the reservoir". There is a set of clear actions to achieve these goals, such as "build a fence on the east side" or "create a wakeless zone on the east side of the reservoir during waterfowl nesting season". There are also recommendations for additional surveys and plans, as well as monitoring to see if we are meeting the objectives over time. As of 2005, the State Parks Strategic Plan requires managers to incorporate stewardship objectives and actions in their annual workplans, as well as to incorporate stewardship objectives in the General Management Plans when they are revised.
Objectives of Stewardship Process
- Compile existing resource information and collect field data on boundaries, wildlife, soils, water resources, geologic and paleontologic resources, wetlands and vegetation (including rare plants and noxious weeds) as a comprehensive resource knowledge base.
- Summarize existing conditions of the natural resources within the park and suggest a desired future condition for each resource.
- Identify specific impacts, influences and threats to the natural resources.
- Provide a prioritized set of management recommendations and suggestions for park staff, consultants or other agencies, to do specific work, over a five-year period.
- Suggest specific stewardship goals and objectives to apply over the next five years, as well as a zoning scheme for the park based on ecological sensitivity. Objectives will be incorporated into the park’s next general management plan to ensure protection of resources.
- Provide implementation advice for the use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) as a planning and monitoring tool.
- Train park staff in the use of GIS and install a GIS program on one of the park’s computers.
Side products of the Stewardship Process include:
- Great maps with detailed information about natural and man-made features (trails, campgrounds, etc.)
- Mapping of significant natural resource features at the park (bird breeding areas, crytobiotic soils, etc.)
- Specific re-vegetation lists and project implementation advice.
- Interpretive materials such as flower lists by blooming time, watchable wildlife lists, maps of wildlife habitat in the park and the surrounding region and website environmental pages.
- Information helpful for "Authority of the Resource" approach to law enforcement.
- Extensive best management practices gathered from other agencies such as CDOW, BLM, NPS, etc.
- Monitoring and survey protocols for various species and problems (lynx habitat mapping, shoreline erosion monitoring, etc.)
- Management prescriptions to deal with specific problems. Prescriptions are generally 3-20 page documents detailing specific management actions to address a situation that may occur at several parks. Information comes both from outside experts, as well as from park staff who have found the best solutions that work on the ground. Prescriptions address issues such as "How to manage prairie dogs on state park lands?" or "Options for wildlife proof trashcans".