Colorado’s majestic forests span more than 24 million acres across the western half of the state. These celebrated forests—known for their beauty, diversity and recreational opportunities—ascend through the Front Range foothills and blanket the Rocky Mountains. They are the source of four major rivers, including the iconic Colorado River.
More than 3.7 million people live, work and play in the forests surrounding Denver and neighboring metropolitan communities along the Front Range. Front Range forests are the receptacle for the winter snowpack and seasonal rains that replenish reservoirs and rivers like the South Platte that directly furnish drinking water to more than two-thirds of Colorado’s population.
Many of the forests surrounding Denver are in poor condition: overgrown, lacking in diversity and stressed by competition for sunlight and water. As a result, these forests are extremely susceptible to large and potentially devastating wildfires and insect and disease attacks.
When a severe wildfire occurs, forest soils can be seared to the point that they no longer absorb rain water or other runoff, leading to significant risk of flooding, erosion and debris flows, posing a serious threat to water supplies.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
The Nature Conservancy is committed to improving forest conditions in order to protect nature, safeguard communities and secure our water supplies. In collaboration with private landowners, public forest management agencies, municipal water providers and other partners, we’re improving forest conditions across Colorado.
We’ve identified at least 1.5 million acres of forest that are in immediate need of restoration and treatment. Our goal is to increase the pace, scale and quality of forest restoration across Colorado.
Our priority is to facilitate innovative, collaborative, large-scale approaches to forest restoration by:
- Working with Public Utilities. We provide science, design on-the-ground forest treatments and thinning, and ensure the application of best management practices for healthy forests on lands that filter and supply water to reservoirs.
- Collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service and Other Agencies. Our active collaboration with partners has helped us develop and apply a new landscape conservation forecasting tool to identify where restoration activities are the most cost-effective and have the best results for nature and people.
- Fighting Fire with Fire. Since 2008, the Conservancy’s Southern Rockies Wildland Fire Module—a fire crew based in Colorado—has worked to restore our forests through safe, scientifically-designed controlled burns; providing prescribed fire trainings to partners, and assisting federal agencies in managing natural fires to accomplish restoration objectives.