While Colorado's sweeping mountain and prairie vistas seem pristine, a closer look at the botanical conditions in our state reveal a number of challenges. Drought, erosion and invasive species all threaten the interwoven community of plants that make up native habitat. Wherever the soil is disrupted by human activity, invasive weeds like cheatgrass and tumbleweed bounce back more easily than the native community that once thrived on the site. Colorado Burial Preserve has committed to an active restoration management plan to improve soil conditions, discourage invasive species and make sure your choice of natural burial nourishes a healthy ecosystem.
The restoration plan covers all areas of the Preserve, but also addresses the soil of a fresh grave directly. The soil is amended with organic fertilizer and native straw or mulch, then sowed with a custom blend of native grass and wildflower seeds. Typically, a grave is treated immediately following the burial regardless of season (the good seeds in the ground immediately start to discourage invasive weeds by competing for resources). Then, the areas are evaluated, weeded, and re-treated in late fall, early spring and late spring- whenever Mother Nature gives us a chance for rain and snow to nourish the seeds.
What seeds are included in the Program?
This blend was designed by Arkansas Valley Seeds in response to the scientific Ecological Impact Analysis conducted in the Preserve. The mix includes a combination of annuals and perennials, and a variety grasses, wildflowers and shrubs. The grasses include western wheatgrass, which is nutritious for wild elk and antelope, and ricegrass, which is an important food source for birds. Both of these grasses are excellent for preventing erosion because of their root structures and ability to thrive in tough conditions. The roots and rhizomes lock their carbon in the ground for generations to come. Shrubs like rabbitbrush and fourwing saltbrush create habitat and shade for small animals and nesting birds.
The Native Prairie Restoration Program includes widflowers like sunflowers, coneflowers, asters, vetch and penstemon. Some native seeds, like prairie paintbrush, can only germinate when they are in a symbiotic relationship with growing seeds from another species. Planting these flowers in a blend with other seeds and protecting the recovering area from disturbance means these native flowers can have the slow and balanced germination they require, while faster-establishing grasses and annuals provide cover protection and soil enrichment.
Can I plant a tree on my plot?
We do not receive enough precipitation at the Preserve to support forest trees. Our burial areas have been designed permanently protect the existing pinyon and juniper trees, and the grave sites are typically appropriate for a meadow-type ecosystem. Ultimately Mother Nature will have the final say about what plants thrive on the site, but we can make an attempt to introduce a particular wildflower in the area. If the immediate restoration following a burial does not thrive, the plot will be treated repeatedly until a healthy plant community is established on the site.
The ideal conditions within the Preserve will be a rich, stabilized soil with a diverse community of plants that provide food and habitat for pollinators, birds and animals. Natural burial, at an appropriate depth with biodegradable materials, means the nutrients in your body can nourish the soil and plant life for generations to come. The Native Prairie Restoration Program ensures visitors to the gravesite will always find a healthy native ecosystem thriving in memory of their loved one.