Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch is a 3,200-acre working guest ranch where eagles soar above red cliffs and mule deer seek the cool shade of the ponderosa forest. The ranch is located at the mouth of the Big Thompson Canyon just seven miles west of Loveland, CO. The project was established in 2012 with a focus on reducing nutrient runoff into the Big Thompson River from nearby cattle pens where the animals stay during calving season and produce extra waste-runoff.
As one of Peaks to People’s first demonstration sites, this project tested two important aspects of our process framework. First, it helped us to determine the best practices needed to bring technical experts and landowners together to plan treatments. And second, it enabled us to determine how to cost-effectively monitor and measure the impact of reducing nutrient runoff into the river.
For this project, runoff catchment devices were placed at site where waste ran into the river in order to keep it from flowing into the river. Data collected indicated the catchment devices significantly reduced nutrient loads present in the water with load reductions ranging from 94% to 98% (from pre-BMP to post-BMP at the flume). Knowing the nutrient load generated by a given number of cows subjected to recorded precipitation levels allowed for the creation of a “return on investment” model that can be applied to other operations where runoff is more diffuse. The data collected and lessons learned from this project will be used to inform other similar projects in the future.
Peaks to People Water Fund, Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, NRCS, Big Thompson Watershed Forum (BTWF), City of Loveland Water Quality Laboratory (LWQL), Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water), the Institute for Livestock and the Environment at Colorado State University (CSU), the Center for Collaborative Conservation at CSU