Shaun Howard is a lead park ranger for the 50,000+ acre Jefferson County Open Space system. In 1997, she was one of the first to sign up for a new Colorado State University Extension educational offering: the Native Plant Master Program. After taking three field courses and completing the required outreach of educational contacts, she became a certified Native Plant Master. Over the years, the knowledge she gained through the program multiplied far beyond her initial training.
Howard is just one of the thousands of Native Plant Master students trained since the program began. Originally started in Jefferson County, the program has expanded to 12 counties statewide.
To earn certification as a Native Plant Master, volunteers must be accepted through an application process, complete three courses and make 60 educational contacts using information learned from the program. Courses are taught on trails in local open space parks and on other public lands. Participants who complete any three courses are awarded a Colorado Flora Certificate.
Every summer for the past 20 years, in meadows and forests throughout Colorado, curious homeowners, land managers, educators and others do what they can to learn more about the native terrain.
The Native Plant Master Program was created to raise awareness about native plants, sustainable landscapes and threats to native ecosystems from invasive weeds.
The economic impact stems from participants’ cost savings from implementing sustainable landscaping practices and invasive weed management on their owned or managed properties. Sustainable landscaping reduces such inputs as water use, pruning, and pest control. Weed control measures improve land productivity including crop output, grazing, landscapes, wildlife and tourism.