© Mike Norton (Colorado)

Colorado Biodiversity Scorecard

Following the three-part model of “effective conservation” developed by The Nature Conservancy, our scorecard evaluated the status of each plant, animal or ecological system under three broad categories: 1) Biodiversity status – including abundance and quality; 2) Threat status – focused on both current and potential future impacts; and 3) Protection status. This scorecard includes 92 rare plant species, 16 animal species, and 11 ecological systems. The work reported here includes a representative sample of Colorado’s rarest plant and animal species, and Colorado’s most common/widespread ecological systems. Our objectives for this project were to measure the degree of effective conservation for these species and ecological systems.

Rare Plants

Rare plants in Colorado are not effectively conserved. On a statewide basis, only nine of 92 species are ranked as effectively conserved – a failing grade for rare plant conservation in Colorado. A brighter note, however, is that we still have high quality occurrences of many of these species, giving us the opportunity to improve our rare plant grade through conservation action. The foremost strategies that would improve rare plant conservation in Colorado are threat abatement and on-the-ground protection for the best occurrences. Colorado’s barrens and shrubland habitats are especially important for rare plants. These habitats are primarily threatened by energy development, exurban development, and motorized recreation.


Animal populations, especially those that are rare or infrequently encountered, are difficult to effectively track, and much information is currently missing that would provide a complete picture of the effectiveness of current conservation efforts in Colorado. Those species for which adequate data exist are closely studied precisely because they are already in danger. Of the 16 animal species, subspecies, or distinct populations that we were able to rank for this document, none can be considered effectively conserved, and rank poorly in all three major scoring categories of biodiversity, threats, and protection status.

Ecological Systems

Common and widespread ecological systems in Colorado are generally of good to high quality and part of functional landscapes. For some ecological systems, however, threats and lack of protection may change this situation rapidly. Only two of our eleven dominant ecological systems are effectively conserved. Our most threatened and least protected systems are those of the eastern plains and lower montane areas of the Front Range. Shortgrass prairie is by far the most altered of any of Colorado’s major ecological systems, has fair threat status, and is poorly protected as well. Although we have lost perhaps 48% of our shortgrass prairie in the past century, there are still some very large, high quality areas that present excellent opportunities for

To learn more, visit the Colorado Natural Heritage Program's Biodiversity Scorecard page.

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