2.0 Natural Systems
- Natural systems are composed
of the four primary spheres which encompass the natural environment:
lithosphere (rocks, minerals and geology), hydrosphere (water
bodies), atmosphere (air), and biosphere (life - animals/plants).
- The geology of El Paso
County changes from west to east as the rock varies from igneous
Pikes Peak Granite to the younger sedimentary rocks of the Dawson
Formation and the more recent deposits of unconsolidated, alluvial
stream channels and colluvial slopes. Massive homogenous igneous
rocks in the west change to steeply dipping sedimentary rocks
near the mountain front. Many of the sedimentary rock formations
contain paleontological features of ancient lifeforms, such as
federally protected remains of large vertebrates including dinosaurs
and other extinct species. The landscape then levels out
to the nearly flat sandstones and shales generally found in the
eastern regions of the county.
- Inherent in the type and
orientation of bedrock and related soils are geologic hazards
and their associated risks.
- Surface water is abundant
at higher elevations in the western part of the County. Streams
tend to flow in an east-west direction in the mountainous areas
and north-south in the eastern plains. The rapid movement of
surface water, often caused by concentrated heavy rains, may
cause erosion, deposition, and flooding. In addition, failure
of underground piping and surface collapse may occur where granular
soil materials move into subsurface open cavities.
- Ground water is available
from several identifiable watersheds. The most notable watershed
may is Fountain Creek, which runs through the County from north
to south. Other significant watersheds include the drainage basins
for Black Squirrel, Cherry, and Kiowa Creeks. A large portion
of the County located south and east of Highway 24, comprises
wind-deposited sands that function as recharge
zones for the shallower aquifers
of the Black Sauirrel.
- Most large standing water
bodies, such as reservoirs, are man made and although generally
designed for detention and retention, have become important wildlife
areas. Habitats along rivers, streams, springs, ponds, and lakes
contain the highest density and diversity of wildlife.
- The climate
of the county varies greatly, from alpine conditions in the higher
mountains to the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert in the
southern portion of the County.
The air of the region
tends to be clean except during the inversion season, along transportation
routes, and in areas of dense development.
- The Countys diverse
flora and fauna are primarily the result of variations in the
regions climatic conditions. Five distinct life zones,
along with many other transitional plant and wildlife communities,
have been identified by the Colorado Department of Wildlife.
A change in elevation of more than 9,000 feet and significant
variation in the amount of annual precipitation and temperatures
contribute to the regions diversity. Wildlife diversity
relies on both the type of plants available and specific climatic
conditions. Most habitat zones have an abundance of large animals,
such as deer, antelope, elk, bear, and mountain lion, and smaller
animals such as rodents and birds. Critical habitats for several
of these species have been mapped and included in the Countys
"Wildlife Habitat Maps and Descriptors" which has been
adopted as a topical element of the County Master Plan.
- To accommodate population
increases, homes, businesses, and other related infrastructure
are constructed which may have a negative effect on the countys
- A general lack of public
understanding for ecosystem
management coupled with intense growth have the potential to
eliminate vast portions of habitat. To ensure the continued health
of the region as changes are made to the built environment, the
preservation and management of its natural systems must be an
- ISSUE 2.1 Preserve
- Traditionally the Pikes
Peak region has been revered as a place of beauty where people
come to relax and enjoy the natural environment. Time spent recreating
or living in the clean mountain air surrounded by abundant wildlife
with the rugged mountains in the background can be exhilarating
and inspiring. Today many people are moving to
El Paso County to enjoy a quality of life that embraces its environmental
amenities. Paralleling this growth are new developments and differing
cultural and environmental attitudes. The opportunity to live
in harmony with nature can only exist if adequate plans are made
to ensure its sustainability.
- During the late fall and
winter months, a haze is often visible over much of the urbanized
area of the county that many people agree did not exist until
around 1980. Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (P.P.A.C.G.)
studies indicate that the "brown cloud" can be attributed
to a combination of weather inversions that occur during late
fall and winter, trapping pollutants caused by increased fuel
exhaust, geological dust and smoke from wood burning appliances.
Maintaining and improving current air quality will require continued
monitoring and use of control measures appropriate for the countys
- Noise pollution generated
from motor vehicles, trucks, trains, airplanes, construction
activity, industrial uses and other incidental noise sources
constitutes a serious concern. It is not clearly understood how
or to what degree human and wildlife populations are affected
by noise. Although noise reduction studies are inconclusive,
the demands for further noise reduction and elimination will
increase as the region further develops.
- Public awareness of the
threat posed by hazardous materials and wastes has grown in recent
years. El Paso County residents have reduced the amount of hazardous
materials and wastes being discarded through their voluntary
Household Hazardous Waste Collection program. More significant
problems have been identified with other past practices which
have introduced hazardous wastes into the environment. Local
policies for managing the flow of the hazardous materials and
waste are limited because much of this responsibility falls under
Federal and State jurisdiction.
- Goal 2.1 Preserve, enhance, and restore the environment
to acceptable health standards.
- Policy 2.1.1
- Meet the Federal Clean
Air and Clean Water Acts and its amendments.
- Policy 2.1.2
- Encourage local environmental
regulations governing protection of natural resources to be consistent
with state and federal regulations.
- Policy 2.1.3
- Meet regulations and monitoring
for the transportation and storage of hazardous materials and
- Policy 2.1.4
- Encourage cooperation
between public and private entities to implement proper management
practices for hazardous materials and wastes.
- Policy 2.1.5
- Encourage the practice
of appropriate management techniques for handling and disposal
of hazardous materials and wastes.
- Policy 2.1.6
- Encourage the control,
reduction, and elimination of hazardous materials and wastes
at their sources.
- Policy 2.1.7
- Encourage the adoption
of noise level standards which limit or mitigate adverse impacts
to surrounding land-owners.
- Policy 2.1.8
- Carefully consider all
proposed land uses adjacent to interstate highways, railroads,
military training areas, and in designated flight zones to protect
them from associated disruptive noise levels.
- Policy 2.1.9
- Encourage approaches to
land use that promote innovative techniques to protect water
quality and encourage mitigation to reduce pollution from non-point
sources such as run-off from roads, parking lots and lawn chemicals.
- Policy 2.1.10
- Promote public awareness
of programs that improve air and water quality and reduce hazardous
wastes and materials.
- Policy 2.1.11
- encourage approaches to
natural system preservation and protection which also accommodate
reasonable development opportunities.
- Issue 2.2 Preserve
and enhance the regions unique flora and fauna.
- The regions mountains,
prairies, and waterways are home to a great diversity of plant
and animal life and are amenities that serve to entice
more visitors and new residents to the area every year.
- Several wildlife species are
fairly adaptable but due to their territorial or herding instincts
require relatively large expanses of undeveloped land for healthy
survival. Generally, when development occurs, there is little
planning to accommodate the resident wildlife that rely on the
land for their survival. Wildlife must compete for smaller and
fewer territories as more land area is occupied by development.
Homes on large lot subdivisions are often fenced which decreases
the amount of land available for wildlife. The transportation
network of roads necessary to accommodate the travel
demands of the Countys growing exurban
communities serves to further divide and diminish wildlife territories
and corridors. Competition for land sometimes leads to hostile
encounters which usually result in the destruction of wildlife.
Increasing wildlife destruction can be observed along road sides
each year. Encounters with predators, including bear and mountain
lions, are a rare but ever present concern.
- Riparian and wetland areas
are being displaced by development. These areas are necessary
to sustain many species of resident and migratory wildlife and
often provide opportunities for aesthetic recreational areas.
They also serve as natural filtration systems for non-point source
pollutants such as fertilizers, sediment, and pesticides. Therefore,
wetlands are important whether they occur along stream channels
or in other areas.
- Mitigating destruction
to riparian areas by development combined with effective long
range planning and management is critical to wildlife sustainability
which is one of many factors that contributes to the quality
of life in the Pikes Peak region.
- Goal 2.2
- Protect the flora and
fauna found in the Countys five life zones and transitional
- Policy 2.2.1
- Encourage a coordinated
and systematic planning approach to identify, locate and protect
critical areas of wildlife habitat from all five life zones and
- Policy 2.2.2
- Encourage coordinated
public and private approaches to preserve, restore and mitigate
losses of significant wildlife habitat.
- Policy 2.2.3
- Evaluate the impact from
proposed developments on watersheds and wildlife habitat with
appropriate governmental agencies early in the development process.
- Policy 2.2.4
- Provide incentives to
encourage development to incorporate sensitive planning that
ensures the protection of watersheds and wildlife habitat.
- Policy 2.2.5
- Encourage mitigation of
all adverse impacts to wetlands and riparian habitat.
- Policy 2.2.6
- Encourage particular attention
be given to any unique, rare, or especially fragile flora and
- Policy 2.2.7
- Comply with requirements
of the federal Endangered
Species Act .
- Policy 2.2.8
- Encourage the protection
and preservation of state listed endangered and threatened species,
species of special concern, and species with immediate conservation
- Policy 2.2.9
- Encourage education strategies
that address opportunities for public participation in ongoing
efforts to preserve the natural environment.
- Policy 2.2.10
- Encourage preservation
of open space in the design of subdivisions.
- Issue 2.3 Preserve
and enhance significant natural landscapes and features.
- As population densities
increase in the unincorporated county, more land area is being
used for development. Many large ranches, which once made up
much of the County, have been transformed into 35 acre and smaller
residential exurban subdivisions.
Significant natural landscapes including mountain slopes, wetlands,
waterways, unusual vegetation and naturally sculptured rock formations
as well as geological resources continue to be built upon, covered
or modified to the extent that they lose their aesthetic value.
- The elimination of geologic
resources and the destruction of significant natural features
are not always intentional. One reason for this is that comprehensive
guidelines have not been established to identify and classify
significant natural features or plan for their preservation.
Planning is necessary to protect against future inadvertent and
- In addition to planning
for their protection, conservation of environmental amenities
through a practical balance of high-density land use, amenity-sensitive
development, and guidelines for set back and avoidance may influence
both present and future development and encourage mitigation
of past mistakes and prevention of future problems.
- Goal 2.3 To preserve and enhance geologic
features, significant natural landscapes, and waterways.
- Policy 2.3.1
- Preserve significant natural
landscapes and features.
- Policy 2.3.2
- Encourage the development
of a County-wide plan to systematically identify, classify, and
provide guidelines for the protection of significant natural
features and landscapes.
- Policy 2.3.3
- Consider the guidelines
in the El Paso County Master Plan for the preservation
and protection of significant natural features when reviewing
- Policy 2.3.4
- Develop a systematic
data base to inventory paleontological sites that have been unearthed.
- Policy 2.3.5
- Encourage the use
of innovative siting and design techniques to identify, enhance,
and, where appropriate, incorporate and protect significant natural
features and waterways.
- Policy 2.3.6
- Consider the Natural
Systems Inventory and identify significant geological features
prior to granting subdivision or development approval.
- Policy 2.3.7
- Encourage mitigation
of adverse visual impacts caused by construction including roadcuts,
utility lines, outside storage, water tanks and building scale.
- Policy 2.3.8
- Encourage incorporating
significant natural landscapes and waterways into parks and open
space where feasible.
- Issue 2.4 Identify
and locate possible geologic hazards that may RESULT IN destruction
of life and property.
- Geologic hazards
are usually related to the movement of water and/or the structure
and composition of the underlying bedrock.
Although the County is aware of and has developed mechanisms
to consider flooding problems along with some of the erosion
and deposition problems, many geologic hazards have not been
systematically included when land use is addressed. Generally
the public is unaware of the serious dangers present when developing
in areas with geologic hazards. In addition to inadequate warning
systems, protection by law is rare, and home owners insurance
usually does not cover damage caused by geological hazards.
- The need for better
planning in areas with geological hazards is clear. Examples
of such hazards include flooding, erosion and deposition, landslides,
slumps, rock fall, swelling clays and rocks, and subsidence and
piping. Planning guidelines to reduce the associated risks from
geological hazards are necessary for public safety.
- Goal 2.4 Minimize damage from geologic hazards.
- Policy 2.4.1
- Develop an ongoing
coordinated, systematic and comprehensive approach to study,
identify, locate, and classify areas where geologic hazards may
- Policy 2.4.2
- Develop public
safety guidelines and/or educational materials to explain the
risks associated with developing in identified geological hazard
- Policy 2.4.3
- Develop a systematic
process that informs the public about the dangers of geologic
- Policy 2.4.4
- Encourage more
and better methods of notifying potential property investors
and the public of the risks and liabilities associated with developing
in identified geological hazard zones.
- Note Sections:
3.0 Water Resources, 8.0 Parks and Open Space, 9.0 Transportation,
10.0 Water and Wastewater, 11.0 Drainage and Flood Protection,
and, 12.0 Other Utilities and services.