PLNR-16-1-Forest Management and Watershed Health

WHEREAS reliable, affordable water supplies are foundational to the environment, economy and quality of life in rural Colorado; and

WHEREAS Colorado benefits from a balanced economy, including robust agriculture, natural resources, outdoor industry/recreation, service, and technology sectors; and

WHEREAS water is fundamental and indispensable to vibrant economies and healthy communities, anchoring the assets that make Colorado unique and provide our competitive advantages; and

WHEREAS mountain snows supply 75% of the Inland West’s water and about 40% comes from the highest elevations and primarily from national forests; and

WHEREAS large forest fires are 4 times more frequent than before 1987 and burn an average of 6 times more land per year, putting our forest headwaters and water supplies at risk; and

WHEREAS the population of Colorado is projected by the State Demographer to double in the next 30 years, most of whom will reside along the Front Range;  and

WHEREAS the State of Colorado recently developed a statewide Water Plan initiated by Governor Hickenlooper through an executive order signed May 13, 2013 which affirmed the following:

Colorado’s water policy must reflect its water values. The Basin Roundtables have discussed and developed statewide and basin-specific water values and the Colorado Water Plan must incorporate the following:

  • a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, viable and productive agriculture, and a robust skiing, recreation and tourism industry;
  • efficient and effective water infrastructure promoting smart land use; and
  • a strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife; and

WHEREAS the Colorado Water Plan is considered a strategic document and therefore only lightly touched on the tie between forest management and water and did not answer many questions related to forestry that would allow for strategic planning and watershed treatment prioritization; and

WHEREAS a review of the Colorado Water Plan raises forestry questions including:

  • What effects on water quality and quantity were detected from the cumulative effects of mountain pine beetle mortality on an estimated 3.4 million acres, and cumulative effects of spruce beetle mortality on another estimated 1.6 million acres?
    • Will there be changes in water quantity available for downstream uses?
    • Will water quantity flows decrease as the ‘new forests’ regenerate?
      • Water quantity varies often according to needle coverage and new forests may have different effects on water quantity
    • Will water quantity vary by species and location and if so how much?
    • Will the forestry aspects of water quantity vary by climactic factors?

WHEREAS Colorado wildfires have burned over 800,000 acres in Colorado since 2001 which raise watershed forestry questions including:

  • What effects of sedimentation have occurred?
  • What chemical compounds were introduced into Colorado’s water supply post-fire?
  • Have costs increased associated with water treatment in Colorado?
  • Have there been costs to reservoirs, water intake and diversion structures?
  • What are the impacts, including cost, to irrigators?

 

WHEREAS the Colorado State Forest Service has a critical role as the lead state forestry agency to provide management assistance private and state forest lands, technical information and to work with federal partners on land management;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that CLUB 20 supports a joint effort between the Colorado State Forest Service and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to draft a supplement to the Water Plan that provides a stronger, clearer and more explicit discussion on forest health wildfires and their implications for Colorado water supply and water quality. This supplement should include a cost-benefit analysis of wildfire prevention and the overall water supply and environmental benefits of investments in healthy forest conditions, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that CLUB 20 supports active and sustained forest management to restore headwater forests and to rebuild degraded landscapes necessary to make the critical link between the health of our forests and the health of our watersheds, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that CLUB 20 supports immediate funding alternatives to “fire borrowing” that robs the US Forest Service, and other Federal Agencies, of Congressionally-approved funding, including healthy forest investments and wildfire prevention spending, in order to pay for wildfire suppression, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that CLUB 20 supports programs such as the Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response (SBEADMR) and calls for full funding for this and similar forest health initiatives.

 

Adopted 4/1/2016