Much of our forests have grown very dense after years of protection from wildfire, which actually has increased 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.
In 2020, Northern Colorado experienced the catastrophic effects of the two largest fires in Colorado history, the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome Fires, which combined burned over 400,000 acres. These fires exceeded $149 million in suppression costs, destroyed more than 1,000 structures, and threatened multiple water supplies in the Poudre River and Big Thompson watersheds. The social and environmental impacts from these fires will be felt for years to come.
Peaks to People Water Fund formed to proactively address the growing risk of severe wildfires that threaten our clean and abundant water supply. Peaks to People is designed to capitalize on the costs savings identified in the study, ‘A Preliminary Green-Gray Analysis for the Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson Watersheds of Colorado’s Front Range Feasibility Analysis’ by implementing forest health treatments. The study identified:
The projected 20 year cost of future catastrophic fires in Cache La Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds.
*Cost includes property damage and loss of commerce due to interrupted water supply, damaged infrastructure and impaired water quality
The projected 20 year reduction in fire-related costs with an investment in upper watershed fire risk reduction and restoration practices.
These findings encouraged us to create a watershed fund that enables municipalities, businesses, and philanthropic funders, to provide resources for land stewards to implement forest health practices on their lands. We invite you to learn more about how joining together we can enhance the natural resources, wildlands and agricultural areas upon which our quality of life depends.
Photo Credit: © Michael Menefee