Local Organizations Join Forces to Protect the Big Thompson Watershed

Loveland, CO –  Widespread decline in forest health due to the effects of climate change and wildfire suppression have decreased the ecological resilience of the Big Thompson watershed and exponentially increased the risk of catastrophic wildfire. This has put the communities within the forested areas as well as those dependent upon its natural resources at very high risk. Numerous organizations have been working for decades to improve the health of the forests and waterways in Northern Colorado. Nothing short of a monumental task.

The newly formed Big Thompson Watershed Health Partnership (BTWHP) spearheaded by Peaks to People Water Fund combines the resources and expertise from numerous organizations including the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition, City of Greeley, Colorado State Forest Service, Estes Valley Land Trust, Estes Valley Watershed Coalition, Larimer Conservation District, Larimer County Conservation Corps, Larimer County Natural Resources, Larimer County Office of Emergency Management, Loveland Fire Rescue Authority, Loveland Water and Power, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Northern Water, The Ember Alliance, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service. While our organizations have worked side by side for many years, the formal creation of this partnership strengthens and enhances our ability to protect the crucial natural resources provided by the watershed.

The recent influx of federal and state funding for wildfire mitigation along with the continued financial support from organizations like the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Northern Water, Colorado State Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, Peaks to People Water Fund and Larimer County for forest health projects in the Big Thompson have strengthened the resolve of partnership members. Furthermore, the strong community ties of our partners at Larimer Conservation District, Big Thompson Watershed Coalition, Estes Valley Watershed Coalition, Estes Valley Land Trust, Loveland Water and Power, Loveland Fire Rescue Authority and The Ember Alliance are equally vital to the success of this partnership.

A Race Against the Clock

wildfire2020 saw the two largest wildfires in state history, the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak, both of which burned portions of the Big Thompson. These unprecedented fires proved that it has become more urgent than ever to protect the Big Thompson watershed and the communities housed within. It is undeniably one of the single most important resources to Northern Colorado providing water to more than 30 municipalities along the Front Range and hundreds of agricultural producers on the eastern plains. It provides thousands of acres of critical wildlife habitat and, of course, countless recreational opportunities. It isn’t a matter of ”if” a wildfire will burn through the forested landscape of the Big Thompson watershed but simply “when”.

It’s Not Too Late

Unlike the hundreds of thousands of acres lost to the high intensity wildfires of the last few years, there is still a chance to protect the Big Thompson watershed from suffering the same fate. Only by working together will we be able to increase the pace and scale of much needed forest health work within the watershed.

The overarching goals of the Big Thompson Watershed Health Partnership include:

  • STRATEGIC PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION: Collaboratively plan strategic, long-term, landscape scale forest and riparian restoration work in Big Thompson watershed.
  • MONITORING AND ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT: Define consistent monitoring metrics and protocols for use among partners to provide accountability, track results and allow for adaptive management.
  • FUNDRAISING: Seek federal, state, regional, local and private funding to support forest and riparian restoration projects in Big Thompson watershed.
  • OUTREACH AND ENGAGEMENT: Promote outreach and engagement with landowners, Homeowner Associations and the general public to increase social license for forest and riparian restoration projects, including use of prescribed fire.
  • TRAINING AND CAPACITY BUILDING: Increase capacity of partners to accomplish internal and partnership goals.
  • RESOURCE SHARING: Share resources, training opportunities, expertise and connections in order to leverage partner assets.

BTWHP partners will be offering community workshops and project site tours this spring and summer. For more information please contact us at btwatershedhealthpartnership@gmail.com