Delta County has become home to a state-of-the-art storage warehouse for stocks of native plant seeds that will serve the Western Slope, and beyond.
The stocks of native plant seeds will support habitat and ecosystem restoration projects on a landscape-wide scale reaching into areas across the Colorado Plateau.
The opening of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife facility on Sawmill Mesa Road last month culminates more than 10 years of vision, planning, and work among a collaborative group of public lands agencies and private groups and individuals.
Although the Delta Seed Warehouse is owned and operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the facility will be used also for lands maintenance programs undertaken by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
Two lesser-known private groups played key roles in the conception, development, and final completion of the seed warehouse project. They are the Delta/Montrose-based Public Lands Partnership (PLP) and another closely related group known as the Uncompahgre Partnership (UP).
Several universities and research facilities also played roles in the creation of the Delta Seed Warehouse.
At dedication ceremonies for the facility on Dec. 20, the two private groups were given major credit for their vision and early work beginning in 2002 that led to the warehouse. That work in fact dates even earlier, to a 1998 study of mule deer populations on the Uncompahgre Plateau. That study revealed ecosystem-wide threats that were responsible for declining numbers of the species.
The Uncompahgre Project was born as an offshoot of the PLP, a group of volunteers who advocate for public lands issues.
Following the group's formal organizational development, the UP's action plan was completed in 2002. Other supporting partners were brought on board, including some local industrial and business interests.
Along the way to helping create the Delta Seed Warehouse, the Uncompahgre Partnership has been involved in other landscape habitat restoration projects under the umbrella of its Native Plant Species Program and other initiatives. The program is described by the UP as follows: "The goal of the Uncompahgre Plateau Native Plant Program is to develop an adequate supply of a variety of seed species native to the Colorado Plateau for use in restoration activities."
The organization's web site also describes the program. "The Native Plant Program has selected principal species considered suitable for a variety of ecosystems and restoration prescriptions. Wildland collections of these native species have been made and the seed was provided to plant material centers to establish 'foundation fields'. Seed from these fields was then provided to qualified growers for commercial production.
"Native seed of several priority species is available from certified commercial fields to federal and state agencies and private landowners in sufficient quantities to begin seeding restoration projects in the Colorado Plateau Region."
The Delta Seed Warehouse encompasses 9,300 square feet and includes office space, packaging and loading facilities, and a refrigerated storage area for seed stocks that degrade rapidly in warm temperatures.
Having the Delta Seed Warehouse available for wildlands restoration projects means that commercial grower contracts can be let by agencies in advance. That brings down the cost of acquiring used from commercial growers who can produce seed at a guaranteed price. It also gives public lands management agencies a reliable supply free of unpredictable market price fluctuations, and allows them the ability to plan projects in advance.
Supplies of critically needed seed can also be available when wildland fire events create an immediate demand. The Delta Seed Warehouse is already supplying native seed that is being used in restoration of the Pine Ridge fire north of DeBeque last summer.
The seed stored in the facility is comprised of local species adapted to local conditions. Stocks include showy freebane, bottle brush (squirrel tail), Sandberg bluegrass, sulphur flower buckwheat, mountain sagebrush, mountain mahogany, penstemon cyanocaulis, and others.
Another benefit of the Delta Seed Warehouse is that it holds the possibility of providing new markets for commercial seed growers, some of whom may be local.
Delta County commissioner Doug Atchley, speaking at the Dec. 20 dedication event said, "We are very proud to have this facility in Delta County. This is an additional tool for the support of agriculture and of local native seed growers. Delta County has since the beginning supported the efforts of the Public Lands Partnership and the Uncompahgre Partnership."
The warehouse will especially support programs for restoring habitat for mule deer and sage grouse, said Chad Bishop, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife assistant director.
A major grant for the facility by the Legislature came from state severance tax dollars paid by coal mines, natural gas producers, and others.blog comments powered by Disqus