What is a Watershed?A watershed, sometimes referred to as a drainage basin, is an area of land where all of the water that is under it, or drains off of it collects into one location such as a stream, river, lake or wetland.


Image Credit: Delaware County Conservation District

A water fund is a mutually beneficial partnership between the downstream communities who depend on water and the people upstream who manage the land. Through the water fund mechanism, water users invest in the restoration of the lands that produce the water they depend on. Implementers, such as watershed coalitions, conservation districts and numerous other public and private entities can utilize the Water Fund mechanism to support their work on the ground.

Peaks to People Water Fund aims to protect water resources in the Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds in Northern Colorado. The Big Thompson Watershed includes 173 lakes, 974 total river miles, and 530 perennial river miles, encompassing 7,212 watershed acres and more than 900 square miles. The Cache la Poudre River Watershed drains approximately 1,056 square miles above the canyon mouth west of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Peaks to People Process FlowWe follow a strategic process to ensure we continually add value to the important restoration work already underway in Northern Colorado.

  • Connect downstream beneficiaries and stewards (including landowners and others that are involved in natural resource management in the watersheds) to set strategic water supply protection goals.
  • Obtain new and significantly scaled sources of funding for forest health treatments.
  • Identify priority places for restoration and cost-effective risk reduction treatments.
  • Create consistency in monitoring standards and measures of success.
  • Track and report on the outcomes of forest health treatments in the watersheds.


Optimal Treatment Plan for $2 milionl budgetThe Watershed Investment Tool (WIT) is a risk-based assessment and planning tool designed to estimate the benefits of forest fuels reduction and leverage this information to optimize fuel treatment type and location.  The tool analyzes pre-treatment forest fuel conditions, determines the optimal treatment methods (such as prescribed fire and/or mechanical thinning), and helps stakeholders establish project goals. It also analyzes the results of each project to provide measurable outcomes of success and inform future decisions. Try it out and see for yourself how it works!

Wildfire mitigation actions are on-the-ground treatments of forested properties implemented to reduce the threat of wildfire. These actions can take place before, during or after a wildfire has occurred. The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) is an excellent resource for residents who want to gain more information and take steps to decrease the threat of wildfire to their property.https://csfs.colostate.edu/wildfire-mitigation/

Canopy cover refers to the amount of ground area covered by tree canopy, expressed as a percentage. For example, 50% canopy cover means that 50% of the ground area is covered by tree canopy. Canopy cover can be measured in the field using a densitometer or via remote sensing.

Wildfire move from ground to crown because of ladder fuelsAn active crownfire is a fire that spreads to the tops of the trees and spreads from tree top to tree top. Ladder fuels move the fire from the ground to the crown.

Graphic Source: U.S. Forest Service
Credit: Adam Cole, Nelson Hsu / NPR

In forestry, treatments focus on reducing overgrown forests by thinning trees in a method that promotes natural habitats, but mitigates the risk of fire by leaving less available fuels to burn in the event of a fire. Depending on the specific treatment plans for each site, trees may be:

~Felled and put into a burn pile
~Removed for other use
~Treated with a prescribed burn

All treatment plans are thoroughly vetted and discussed with landowners, contractors, and investors prior to the start of a project.

It’s a management unit within which a management treatment may occur, similar to a stand in size (1-100+ acres) but defined more by operational boundaries (natural topographic breaks, roads,property boundaries) than by vegetation as it may contain multiple forest types or stands.

Fire crews managing a controlled burnThe U.S Forest Service describes a Prescribed Burn as a planned fire used to meet management objectives. The right fire in the right place at the right time. Prescribed burning (also known as a controlled burn) involves careful planning, coordination and monitoring. These planned fires are strategically set by experienced fire professionals to restore and maintain healthy forests and grasslands.

Photo of prescribed burn at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch near Red Feather Lakes Colorado September 2017.

Masticator at Lory State Park 2019Mastication is a fuel reduction treatment method used in forestry management to reduce wildfire risk, to reduce fuel loadings by returning the forest to natural conditions. Masticating fuels, or mulching the forest, involves the reduction of vegetation into small chunks and is one of the many ways overstocked forest stands are thinned.  The benefits include opening the canopy and forest floor which provides the remaining trees access to more nutrients, sunlight and water. Over the past decade, Forest mastication methods have dramatically reduced wildfire hazards and greatly improved forest health. Read all about it at https://www.driforest.com/what-is-forest-mastication

Photo Credit: Colorado State Forest Service

Piles of woody materials remaining after a forest is thinned are burned to reduce the amount of fuel available for a wildfire to burn.


The WUI is the portion of a landscape where structures and other human developments meet, or intermingle with, undeveloped wildlands. If your home is located in the natural vegetation of Colorado’s grasslands, shrublands, foothills or mountains, you live in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and are inherently at risk from a wildfire. Learn what steps to take to protect your home from the devastating effects of wildfire. https://static.colostate.edu/client-files/csfs/pdfs/FIRE2012_1_DspaceQuickGuide.pdf

It’s the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it protects your home from catching fire—either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Creating defensible space is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. Defensible space is also important for the protection of the firefighters defending your home. Learn all about it at: http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/

VRH promotes spatial heterogeneity while meeting ecological and fuel hazard reduction objectives. VRH treatments differ from traditional fuel hazard reduction treatments
by explicitly incorporating spatial objectives that promote spatial heterogeneity rather than creating simple forest structures consisting of evenly spaced trees. To learn more visit https://www.fs.fed.us/…/pubs_series/rmrs/gtr/rmrs_gtr365.pdf

A summer day with precipitation greater than 0.10 inches is called a wetting rain day (WRD). WRDs directly influence wildfires. A decrease in the number of WRDs was associated with 2.5 more times area burned. https://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/consequences-endless-summer-untangling-link-between-summer-precipitation-and-western-wildfires

In severe, slow-moving fires, the combustion of vegetative materials creates a gas that penetrates the soil profile. As the soil cools, this gas condenses and forms a waxy coating. This causes the soil to repel water – a phenomena called hydrophobicity. This hydrophobic condition increases the rate of water runoff. Percolation of water into the soil profile is reduced, making it difficult for seeds to germinate and for the roots of surviving plants to obtain moisture. Learn more at  https://extension.colostate.edu/soil-erosion-control-after…/

An acre-foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land in a foot of water, or 325,821 gallons.

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

YES. Wildfire can significantly alter the hydrologic response of a watershed to the extent that even modest rainstorms can produce dangerous flash floods and debris flows. For information on what to do if you live in a recently-burned area where debris flows are possible, and there is a rainstorm – before, during, and after, download the National Weather Service Post Wildfire Flash Flood and Debris Flow Guide https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/…/DebrisFlowSurvivalGuide.pdf