Colorado Native Plant Masters Two decades of learning and sharing knowledge of native plants

by Joanne Littlefield

published December 15, 2017

From land use managers to artists, participants in the Colorado Native Plant Master program have increased their knowledge with on-the-ground learning opportunities. Participants include biologists, green industry personnel, land use managers, business owners, volunteers, educators, homeowners and others.

“Many residents are unfamiliar with native plants and invasive weeds in Colorado, so the program was designed to educate participants about sustainable landscaping choices and non-native weeds that can threaten native ecosystems,” said Barbara Fahey, founder of the program.

The program was first offered in 1997 by Colorado State University Extension in Jefferson County and since has been adopted in an additional 11 counties.

Colorado is a dry state subject to periodic drought. The Native Plant Master program was created 20 years ago to respond to inquiries about sustaining built and natural landscapes while minimizing the use of water and reducing the impact of invasive non-native weeds that can thrive in dry conditions.

“I had the opportunity to use native plants almost exclusively in my latest redesign for the parking lot and front area of a school in El Paso County”, said Karen Bishop, Designer at Green Frolic Designs.

After two decades of experience with the program throughout Colorado, the program has attracted national as well as regional attention. “We've had quite a few inquiries from other states over the years and are hoping to build capacity to be able to expand the program nationally,” Fahey said. “This year, the University of Wyoming will be piloting the Native Plant Master program which is the first time it's been offered outside Colorado."

The latest survey results for the Colorado Native Plant Master® Program show that the impacts are diverse and communities and people benefit in various ways, including:

• 1,603 participants in classes offered by the program

• 2,543 hours were contributed by 172 volunteers for a donated value of $61,338

• 16,559 educational contacts made by volunteers

• $31,528 in savings reported by participants due to reduced landscaping inputs and increased land productivity

• 14,943 acres were impacted by sustainable landscaping or alien invasive weed control completed by program participants

• $27,807 in user fees split 75% to counties/25% to state program which supports program materials

• 23,030 web sessions on the Colorado Plant Database

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