Outdoor Recreation Idea of the Day, January 11, 2011

Forest Service, Denver Water Board Launch Partnership to Treat National Forests in Colorado

January 11, 2011 (Washington, DC) - Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service will to treat about 38,000 acres of critical watersheds to reduce damage to key Colorado streams and reservoirs.

The $33 million “Forest to Faucet” partnership was announced in the context of the pine beetle epidemic that’s wiped out about 3 million acres of lodgepole pine forests in the state.

Part of the Forest Service share of the funding will come from money that’s already been allocated to the Rocky Mountain region of the Forest Service but additional funds were “earned” when several national forests in Colorado competed favorably for a national forest health funds. Denver Water customers will pay for the other half of the work, seen as an effective way to prevent the huge back-end costs associated with cleaning up after a fire.

The Denver Board of Water has already spent $10.5 million dealing with impacts to a single reservoir after the Hayman fire. It could cost up to another $30 million to complete the restoration, and more if there are significant rainfall events that lead to more erosion and sedimentation.

The work will focus in thinning, fuel reduction, creating fire breaks, erosion control decommissioning roads, and, eventually, reforestation. The partnership could serve as a model for similar agreements across the West and with other industries, including the ski industry and power companies with infrastructure on forested lands.

In total, about 110 million acres of national forest system lands are in need of some sort of treatment. Natural evolution, fire suppression and global warming are all factors contributing to the need for restoration. Before 2000, up to 5 million acres of forest per year were affected by wildfires; since then, the average has increased to about 5 to 10 million acres, and with longer and more intense droughts expected, that figure could go even higher.

USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman, a former Denver Water Board member and former Colorado DNR chief, is a leading proponent of these partnerships and has moved a key Forest Service official, Rick Cables, into a new temporary assignment to find additional partnership opportunities to better manage and protect public lands.

Great initiative, Colorado! Bravo.

Outdoor Recreation Idea of the Day is inspired by the President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative to connect Americans to the outdoors and its IdeaJam blog. ARC’s submissions to the blog can be found if you click here. Additional ideas that have been submitted to IdeaJam can be found in our September 2010 newsletter, which is here.