The Big Thompson Initiative

The Big Picture

After years of protection from wildfire, Colorado’s forests have become dense and overgrown, increasing the risk of severe wildfires that threaten water supplies with sedimentation and debris. As we saw in June 2012, when the High Park fire burned nearly 90,000 acres west of Fort Collins, our drinking water was impacted by sedimentation from the fire, affecting communities and businesses that depend on clean water. The fire also caused over $113 million in insured losses, millions more in fire suppression and disaster relief costs, and impacts to commerce and tourism. Keeping our watersheds healthy means much more than simply having clean water to drink.

* “Feasible wildfire risk” identifies areas of risk that we are able to treat (some areas have restrictions that do not allow management).

The Big Goal

Treat 90% of the feasible wildfire risk* to the Big Thompson watershed over the next 10 years.

Through leveraged funds and new funds, we will invest $70 million over the next 10 years to restore our forests to their natural state and reduce the risk of severe wildfires. Guided by sophisticated tools, Peaks to People has identified the locations for treatment based on the greatest potential risk reduction. Additionally, each treatment site is monitored before and after the treatment to accurately measure the results.

* “Feasible wildfire risk” identifies areas of risk that we are able to treat (some areas have restrictions that do not allow management).

Why The Big Thompson?

If we prioritize short-term investments across both the Poudre and The Big Thompson watersheds, there is a likelihood that treatments may be too dispersed to meaningfully affect near-term wildfire outcomes. The rationale for focusing on The Big Thompson watershed’s critical water infrastructure is that it supplies between 40 and 55% of the annual water needs of Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley, and it provides water to 30 other towns and cities along the Colorado Front Range. This, coupled with the fact that a very large percentage of risk within the watershed can be treated for a reasonable budget, makes it the best course of action to quickly improve water security for the region.

The Big Benefits

In addition to protecting our vital water resources in Northern Colorado, The Big Thompson Initiative will provide durable outcomes and benefits, including:

Acres Treated 20,000
Avoided Erosion 169,000 metric tons
Severe wildfire avoided (active crown fire reduced) 15,000 acres
Parks and open space protected from wildfire 1,900 acres
Crucial wildlife habitat protected from wildfire 11,000 acres
Trails protected from wildfire 40 miles
Number of homes influenced (within 1 km of treatments) 12,000

The Small Ask

Much of the $70 million needed is already in place through existing funding mechanisms. But to achieve this Big Goal more funding must be raised, and we ask you to become a strategic partner by making a significant contribution.

Your investment in this crucial conservation effort will not only improve our region’s water security, it will also ensure our businesses and communities continue to thrive. Please contact us today to learn about our investment opportunities.