Descriptions of Denver Metro Area Maps


Each map contains information for the nine Denver Metro Area (DMA) counties included in the planning region of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, as follows:  Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin, and Jefferson.   

Denver Metro Area Ecosystems Map (Click Here)

This map shows the DMA distribution of seven broadly described natural terrestrial, vegetated ecosystems (Aspen, Coniferous Forest, Mixed Forest and Shrubland, Shrubland, Grassland, Alpine, and Plains Wetland/Riparian), two nonnatural terrestrial ecosystems (Intensive Agriculture and Urban/Built-up), and three aquatic ecosystems (Lakes and Reservoirs, Rivers, and Streams which are also referred to as Creeks).  (Note that seminatural ecosystems, as described in the glossary, are grouped with natural ecosystems on the DMA Ecosystems map; very few, if any, ecosystems in the world have been essentially unaffected by human activities.)  The DMA's broadly described natural terrestrial ecosystems, some of which are being partly denaturalized by semi-urbanization, include examples of five "biomes" (large regional types of ecosystems usually defined by their dominant vegetation).  The five DMA biomes represent about half of all global biome types, depending on the biome classification used.  The map also shows 29 natural terrestrial ecosystems described in more detail (e.g., Spruce-Fir, Tallgrass Prairie, Xeric Upland Shrub, Meadow Tundra, and Forest Dominated Wetland/Riparian).  This level of detail is more useful for describing ecosystem diversity in biodiversity conservation programs. Hence, the Ecosystems map is a map of the DMA “coarse filter” (see glossary for discussion of the critically important coarse-filter approach to biodiversity conservation).  Terrestrial ecosystems comprise most of the DMA, with aquatic ecosystems scattered through the terrestrial "matrix".  Although most of the aquatic ecosystems are seminatural at best, they often contain important native species and also contribute to maintenance of native species in their associated riparian ecosystems. 

Denver Metro Area Rare Species, Subspecies, and Ecosystems Map (Click Here)

The Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) identifies the location and quality of rare elements (rare species, subspecies, and ecosystems) in the State of Colorado. An element occurrence represents a location in which a rare species, subspecies, or ecosystem is known to have occurred at one point in time.  Most of these element occurrences are state and/or globally rare; common ecosystems can be included if they represent excellent examples of those ecosystems. Some high quality ecosystems tend to be unique and, therefore, rare occurrences. Only occurrences found from 1980 to the present are on the map. Although CNHP tries to inventory as much of the state as possible, it does not claim that the data are comprehensive.

You are provided with a “Guide to the Rare Species, Subspecies, and Ecosystems Map.”  This map is also a map of the DMA “fine filter” (see glossary for description of the critically important fine-filter approach to biodiversity conservation that complements the coarse filter).  Keep this guide with the map at all times, as it references the map ID number of each rare element occurrence to more detailed information regarding its name, imperilment status (see glossary), and federal/state protection. Below is a brief definition of each column in the table:

1) Map ID – the number on the map used to identify the rare species, subspecies, or ecosystem

2) Scientific Name(s) – the scientific (Latin) name of the species or subspecies; ecosystems typically have multiple names since they usually represent plant associations   (see “ecosystem classification” and “plant association” in glossary)

3) Common Name – the accepted common name in Colorado for the species, subspecies or ecosystem

4) Major Group – the major taxonomic group to which the element occurrence belongs (mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile, fish, mollusk, insect, plant, or ecosystem)

5) State Endemic – ‘yes’ indicates that the element occurrence is only found in the state of Colorado.  NA means “not applicable”

6) CNHP Imperilment Status – CNHP assigns an imperilment status (these are strictly biological and have no legal implications) to each species, subspecies, or ecosystem to help guide conservation priorities (see “imperilment” in glossary)

7) ESA Status – the federal legal status of the species or subspecies as assigned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or certain other agencies under the Endangered Species Act.  For more information (complete species lists, laws and policies, etc.) go to

8) BLM/FS Status – legally identifies species considered sensitive by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and/or the U.S. Forest Service (not involving the Endangered Species Act)

9) State Status – the state legal status of the vertebrate or invertebrate species as assigned by the Colorado Division of Wildlife

Denver Metro Area Urban and Semi-urban Development Map (Click Here)

This map shows those parts of the DMA with various densities of household (“unit”) development (the urban category includes commercial structures), as follows:  Urban = < 1 acre per unit; Semi-urban (1-10) = 1 to 10 acres per unit; Semi-urban (10-35) = 10 to 35 acres per unit; Rural/Open Space =  > 35 acres per unit (see glossary for a different and more common use of the term “open space”).  These data were provided by the Denver Regional Council of Governments.  Semi-urban categories are based on census data for the year 2000.  Urban data are for 2020, based on year 2000 aerial photos projected to 2020 with the aid of planning estimates.


Denver Metro Conservation Area System Map (Click Here)

This map shows the major conservation areas that are presently located in the DMA.  Each conservation area is a publicly or privately owned area which contains a significant portion of relatively natural environment that is managed to maintain its natural qualities (see “natural ecosystem” in the glossary for definition of “natural”).  Other uses such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, education, and carefully managed livestock grazing, timber harvesting, water development, mining, and military operations may be consistent with this goal in certain conservation areas; nonnatural areas undergoing restoration may also be included as conservation areas.  Eight general types of conservation areas are included.  The three national forests in the western DMA form by far the most extensive type (“National Forest”). “Open Space” includes open space department properties in five of the nine counties and in several cities.  State Stewardship Trust Lands and Conservation Reserve Program are defined in the glossary.  “Other” includes miscellaneous types such as certain school, Denver Water Board, and nongovernmental organization properties.  Until recently, the Denver Metro Conservation Area System has been developed in an ad hoc fashion to protect natural wonders, provide outdoor recreation, and meet other resource needs.  Rapidly increasing urban and semi-urban growth in recent years now requires that future conservation areas be added to the system in a manner that will also strengthen its ability to maintain the natural biodiversity of the Denver Metro Area.     

To order Denver Metro Area maps, please contact the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP). Send your name, agency, address, phone number, map number and quantity to or mail your request to:

Colorado Natural Heritage Program – Map Order

Colorado State University

8002 Campus Delivery

Fort Collins, CO 80523-8002

The following maps are available for $23.39 each plus 6.7% sales tax and shipping and handling: #1 DMA Conservation Area System, #2 DMA Ecosystems, #3 DMA Rare Species, Subspecies and Ecosystems, and #4 DMA Urban and Semi-urban Development. Please note that maps are only available if the plotter is in good working condition and CNHP reserves the right to change prices at any time. Laminating maps is highly recommended. Maps can be laminated for an additional $12.50 per map. Allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.