Boulder, Colorado


Nature Needs Half™ in Boulder.

With 68 percent of its land protected, Boulder County is the epitome of a Nature Needs Half™ town. But what does that mean for the people and wildlife that live there? It means coexisting with 500 species of animals and a cornucopia of environments. Picture open prairies, deep forests, snow-capped mountains and roughly 230 miles of trails. It means being able to walk out your door and up to a stand of trees that has survived since the last ice age, or catching a glimpse of a rare butterfly whose life depends on a single type of flower. More than that, Nature Needs Half™ is in the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It’s what makes Boulder the kind of place where you want to live, whether you’re a marathoner, a mother of four, or a burrowing owl nesting down in that perfect prairie dog hole. After you watch Boulder’s story, think about what Nature Needs Half™ could mean for your town.

A Conservation Legacy

With more protected open space than developed land, Boulder boasts more than 230 miles of recreational trails, challenging climbs to 14,000-foot summits, and the opportunity to witness rare orchids and other charismatic wildlife. But when you hike to your favorite lookout and soak in that stunning view, do you ever stop to wonder how we came to have so much? Ruth Wright, a pioneer and lifelong advocate for Boulder nature, shares her story of the progressive thinking and innovations that led to a county that’s 68 percent wild, and discusses what’s still at stake.

Saving space for a threatened species

If you’re a fan of the movie E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial, you might remember a scene where Elliott, linking emotions with E.T., lets loose the frogs destined for dissection in his science class. Mayhem ensues, Elliott kisses the girl and the frogs live to leap another day. What you might not know is that the typical frog used in these experiments was the northern leopard frog. This once-common hopper is now facing federal endangered species listing from threats like invasive species, ranching and habitat loss. The quality of wilderness preserved in Boulder has made the county a rare holdout for the disappearing amphibian, but despite Boulder’s land conservation ethic, familiar threats are knocking at the frog’s door. Follow Boulder wildlife biologist Christine Prah as she tracks down this elusive resident in hopes of giving northern leopard frogs a chance at survival.

Balancing Recreation with Conservation

With 5 million visits a year, Boulder open space sees more action than either Rocky Mountain or Yosemite National Parks, leaving no doubt that Boulder’s wild places are well loved. But sometimes, despite the best intentions, love can hurt. Hikers, dogs, and mountain bikers are leaving their mark on Boulder’s natural areas, eroding trails, disturbing wildlife and spreading invasive species. These impacts are pitting outdoor recreationists against “nature-only” conservationists. As more trails are proposed and others face closures, find out how Boulder balances nature with lifestyle in this Nature Needs Half™ town.


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