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Colorado Renews Plan To Protect Water And Prevent Wildfires

Ryan Lockwood
Colorado Satte Forest Service
Left to right: Jim Lochhead, Clint Evans, Mike Lester and Brian Ferebee sign a memorandum of understanding in Denver, Colorado, on Feb. 27, to renew and expand the FROM FORESTS TO FAUCETS PARTNERSHIP. The partnership is intended to proactively conduct tre

The Forests to Faucets partnership originally began in 2010 as a response to a series of wildfires, namely the 1996 Buffalo Creek and 2002 Hayman wildfires. Since its inception, the partnership’s goals have grown to not only reduce catastrophic wildfires, but to also restore forests impacted by reservoirs, erosion and beetle devastation.  On Monday, Feb 27, Forests to Faucets was granted a $33 million extension to continue its ongoing projects.

Lawrence Lujan is the regional press officer for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, one of the organizations involved in the partnership. He says the specific strategies will be identified in a 5-year plan.

“Some of the tools in the toolbox include, thinning, prescribed fire, replanting trees, especially in areas that have been impacted by previous fires,” said Lujan. “We’ll be decommissioning roads, taking actions to minimize erosion and sedimentation of reservoirs.”

Locations for forest restoration and wildfire fuels reduction projects include Dillon, Strontia Springs, Gross, Antero, Eleven Mile Canyon, Cheesman and Williams Fork reservoirs. The partnership anticipates treating more than 40,000 acres of land.

"The link between healthy forests and clean water is nowhere more evident than in Colorado, where we provide water for 19 states,” said Mike Lester, State Forester and Director of the Colorado State Forest Service. “That is why this partnership is so critical to providing both resilient forests and sustainable water supplies for residents of Metro Denver and the Front Range.”

“The U.S. Forest Service commends Denver Water for their continued commitment to watershed health, and we welcome the Colorado State Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to this trendsetting partnership,” said Brian Ferebee, U.S. Forest Service regional forester. “About 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originates on the national forests and grasslands. Together we will proactively work to conserve, maintain and restore watersheds, ecosystems and the services they provide Americans.”

“We’ve seen tremendous results during the first five years of this partnership, and we are excited to now expand the program to include private lands,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO. “As the water provider to more than 1.4 million people in the Denver metropolitan area, Denver Water directly depends on healthy forests that make up its watersheds.”

The $33 million investment comes from an initial $16.5 million from Denver Water, targeting critical watersheds. Of that, the U.S. Forest Service will receive $11.5 million, the CSFS will receive $3 million and the NRCS will receive $2 million. Each entity will match Denver Water’s funding, for a total of $33 million.