Telluride Teen Takes Action Helping Pollinators

Through our work, we have the honor of meeting amazing people doing incredible things in their own towns. These are the people who inspire us. We hope they will inspire you too.

In Telluride, Colo., Soleil Gaylord has been growing and sharing seeds since grade school, initiated a habitat revegetation project, and more recently, organized an art show in support of pollinators. This is her story, in her own words.


I first heard about the Xerces Society last year when Scott Black came to the Telluride town library to deliver a presentation on pollinators. I wanted to find out more about Xerces as, with the permission of the Telluride Open Space Commission, I had started a small native grass and forbs revegetation project on our open space in 2014. It was coming along nicely, and I wanted to learn how to attract more pollinators.

Since second grade I have been collecting seeds and planting them. I even started my own little business in grade school called Soleil’s Seeds. My open space project builds from this effort. I have been growing milkweed starts in a small greenhouse to put in the revegetation plot. Part of my revegetation plan also included growing native Thurber’s fescue (Festuca thurberi), mountain muhley (Muhlenbergia montana), and junegrass (Koeleria spp.) as well as native forbs like Rocky Mountain penstemon (P. strictus), Palmer’s penstemon (P. palmeri), wild blue flax (Linum lewisii), and blanketflower (Gaillardia spp.).

Soleil Gaylord at the site of her revegetation plot in Telluride, Colorado. Photo by Raymona Gaylord

Scott’s presentation was excellent and gave me the confidence to know that I was doing the right thing. He also inspired to be more observant, especially of native bees. After his presentation, I introduced myself and asked Scott to visit my plot. The next day he came to my greenhouse to check up on my milkweed and grass starts. We then headed out to the gateway of our town, the Telluride Valley Floor. It was early spring so things were looking spindly and thin on the 25 by 25-foot revegetation area, but Scott encouraged me to continue my good work and to also watch for native pollinator species. He showed me the Xerces Society bee identification web pages and the Bumble Bee Watch program. I have been photo-cataloguing the species I have seen since then. Scott also gave me Xerces Society brochures and bulletins to distribute around town. He graciously gifted me a signed copy of the Xerces Society’s Gardening for Butterflies book, which I use as a reference and teaching tool when I give talks to people about my plot.

This year has been a banner year for the revegetation project and there are 22 species of native grasses and forbs thriving there. Every time I visit, to weed or water, there are always pollinators on the flowering plants. I am also working with the San Miguel County Open Space Program on the new down valley Pollinator Garden. This is a joint project of the Xerces Society. I have brought milkweed starts and penstemon seedlings and planted them in this wonderful new project. It is going to be spectacular in a couple years as they have seeded and planted a large area with natives this spring. Thanks to Xerces Society for providing the expertise and education on pollinator gardens to our community.

Native grasses and wildflowers are thriving at the site, attracting many visitors. Photos by Ramona and Soleil Gaylord.

I was so impressed by the mission statement and the work of the Xerces Society that I decided to create a fundraiser for them this summer. I came up with the idea of SNAP, the Student Nonprofit  Art Project. I asked local restauranteur, Lucas Price, if he would be interested in hosting an art show in his very popular restaurant, La Cocina. He kindly and graciously said YES! Then I contacted some of my local photographer friends to ask if they would be interested in donating pieces for sale. All of the monies would go towards the conservation of pollinator species as well as towards spreading the word about the importance of pollinator gardens. I asked them to pick photos depicting the landscape or wildlife of our area. Carl Marcus, Randy Stephens, Eric Hynes, and Kane Scheidegger generously donated their work. I also contributed one of my favorite photos I snapped last autumn depicting the glorious Dallas Divide aspens. Lucas gave me wall space for the entire busy month of June and kindly helped me to install the show. I put up a basket with the brochures that Scott had given me and explained my SNAP project on a couple posters around the restaurant.

Soleil and Lucas Price, owner and chef at La Cocina de Luz, in front of the photo exhibit at the restaurant. Photo by Maile McCann/Telluride Daily Planet; used with permission

Over the month I was able to make $700 for the Xerces Society and also distributed a lot of Xerces brochures to people. It made the cover of our regional paper, the Telluride Daily Planet.

As a finishing touch to the SNAP project, I plan to put up a couple of Xerces Society pollinator garden signs on my revegetation plot as well as on the Pollinator Garden down valley as a tribute to one of my favorite nonprofits. Thank you, Xerces Society!!

By Soleil Gaylord, guest blogger


Are you working on similar efforts in your community? We’d love to know about it and feature your work as part of our blog. Contact us at communications@xerces.org to share your story!

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