Sustainability Amounts to Survival

April 17, 2019 Brian Vogt , Chief Executive Officer

Sustainability is not only a core value at the Gardens, it is the compelling issue of our time. Simply put, sustainability amounts to survival, thinking long-term and doing work today that will benefit generations not yet born.

That is why we devote substantial resources to critical research and conservation. Our teams stretch out across the southern Rockies to preserve and protect rare and endangered plant species. Others span the globe, studying steppe regions and leading the effort to protect the diversity of crop genetics. Of all the problems facing the planet today, we are particularly suited to lead on issues related to plants, water and soil.

There is yet another, more important step: regeneration. When an ecosystem is restored, change can happen quickly. Take, for example, the work we have done along a section of Deer Creek at Chatfield Farms. Decades ago, the Army Corps of Engineers channelized countless creeks and rivers across the country as a method for controlling water flows and reducing flooding. While effective for some purposes, it fundamentally altered ecosystems, usually for the worse. A few years ago, our team staked out a section of Deer Creek, removed invasive species and planted native ones. They added sod plugs in the creek itself to mimic the impact of beaver dams and to restore the old oxbow, a section of the creek that overflows an area when water levels are high.

The impacts have already evidenced themselves. Plants have roared to life, native birds and insects are returning—even the sounds have changed. What’s more, in late August 2018, after only two years, Deer Creek was dry throughout much of the Chatfield Farms property but in the restoration area, water still percolated throughout. That is a perfect example of not only sustainability, but of regeneration. Imagine a world where we repeat that transformation over and over.

Imagine the vitality and health we can pass along. We intend to help in every way we can to transform general horticultural expressions in public spaces, to bring back a more appropriate aesthetic that showcases native and adaptive plants. We are already working with numerous cities and counties with the goal of taking this effort statewide.

Don’t be surprised if Denver Botanic Gardens shows up in a neighborhood near you. And when we do, I hope you’ll join us.

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