Native Plant Master Program making a difference

Saving water, money and time is what CSU Extension’s Native Plant Master Program is all about. The educational and volunteer-driven effort, which began in 1997, has led to the adoption of sustainable landscaping and natural resource conservation practices in a dozen counties across the state.

NativePlantMaster2Impacts are impressive

• $1,842,437 – statewide economic impact due to reduced landscaping inputs and increased land productivity;
• 1,448,483 acres impacted by sustainable landscaping or alien invasive weed control completed by program participants;
• 98,421 educational contacts made by volunteers;
• 7,136 participants in the program; and
• 2,844 volunteers who contributed 7,793 hours.

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. The program has found a cost-effective way to increase the sustainability of Colorado’s managed and natural landscapes while reducing invasive weeds.

Raising awareness

NativePlantMaster3CSU Extension created the Native Plant Master Program to raise awareness about native plants, sustainable landscapes and threats to native ecosystems from invasive weeds. The first training was held in Jefferson County in 1997, and today 12 Extension offices across Colorado offer hands-on educational experiences taught by trained volunteers, CSU faculty and Extension agents. Each training session is divided into three courses: plant identification; ecological relationships between native plants, invasive weeds, wildlife, birds and insects; and landscape and other uses for Colorado native plants.

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. To earn certification as a Native Plant Master, volunteers must be accepted through an application process, complete three courses and make 60 contacts using information learned from the program.

Participants love the challenge

Here’s what they had to say:

• “I have used my identification skills to educate my crew mates about what plants to collect for restoration projects, what plants to leave alone, and what plants to remove during invasive plant control efforts.”
• “It is the best educational experience I have had through my local Extension office. It is outside, hands-on, taught by passionate, intelligent people, and has real world applications.”

For more information, visit the Native Plant Master Program website or contact Barbara Fahey at Colorado State University Extension, Jefferson County, or (303) 271-6620.