PLNR-21-1 Critical Watersheds, Water Security, and Wildfires

WHEREAS approximately 70% of Colorado’s forested landscape is in Western Colorado; the vast majority of which is managed by federal agencies; and


WHEREAS these forested acres are the source for the drinking water in western Colorado and downstream states via natural watersheds and river courses as well as a vital drinking water source via water diversions to Colorado’s Front Range;

WHEREAS these forested acres similarly are the source for most of the irrigation water for farms and ranches on both sides of Colorado’s continental divide;  and


WHEREAS various state, local and federal agencies manage these forests and water supplies for a variety of goals. Examples are water suppliers focus on water rights and collection and diversion systems; USFS focuses on watershed hydrology; EPA focus on water quality; while multiple agencies monitor recreational flows and wildlife agencies focus on fisheries; and


WHEREAS our warmer, drier climate has led to significantly higher wildfire incidence in our forests while many acres of Colorado forests are experiencing unhealthy conditions from overly aggressive fire suppression, insect epidemics, past wildfires and post-fire effects such as soil erosion and need for reforestation; and


WHEREAS wildfires over the past two decades throughout the arid West have annually set new records for both acres burned and the severity of the burns, including fires burning entire watersheds above multiple reservoirs in watersheds essential to municipal and agricultural water supplies; and


WHEREAS Western Colorado is experiencing extreme drought conditions with increasing frequency with attendant reduction in river flows and deterioration of forest conditions; and


WHEREAS multiple state and national agencies and groups are targeting new solutions to address the risks in our forests which too often creates overlapping, competing, and conflicting directions for future forest / watershed management; and


WHEREAS the diverse economies among the Western Slope communities have legitimately different priorities, but there are important considerations that are common across all our forested communities and cannot be efficiently or effectively addressed piecemeal or by any one entity; and


WHEREAS Colorado has high elevation, headwater forests that are essential to providing waterflows to numerous counties, as well as downstream states, which makes coordination of management essential for all Colorado water users; and


WHEREAS companion wildfire recovery costs have skyrocketed as have firefighting costs at the same time as wildfire prevention dollars have been grossly insufficient to protect our watersheds, rivers, and communities; and


WHEREAS the land management agencies have multiple authorities to assist in landscape-scale treatments while protecting and conserving our forests, and these agencies and their planning efforts are critical to avoiding compromise of the integrity and sustainability of our watersheds; and


WHEREAS local agencies, groups, and counties often have the best knowledge to strategically address future forest / watershed management needs, as well as intersecting issues related to wilderness designation and management; and


WHEREAS protection of respiratory health from impacts of forest fires should be a consideration in forest management decisions;


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Club 20 will advocate for:


  • Balancing new, coordinated fact-based forest management direction that respects the sustainability of the many multiple use activities and companies that are the drivers of local economies;
  • Elevating and protecting water security– quality and quantity- as a forest management priority in the implementation of new programs or land use designations;
  • Identifying new funding sources prioritizing healthy forest management that adds to forest and watershed restoration capacities;
  • Analyzing threats and opportunities specific to water security and to the ecological integrity of all critical watersheds, water storage reservoirs, conveyances, and ditches, and that analysis should be prioritized in future forest management decisions;
  • Evaluating all policies to assure solutions that address historic barriers to meeting the current unprecedented conditions and arising challenges to our forests in an evolving climate era;
  • Following foundational science to address climate change and climate-induced threats to watersheds and forests. One critical source of unbiased, relevant, site specific science comes from local federal and state land managers who are working for the public interest;
  • Respecting, utilizing, and improving the robust forest planning processes that have guided science based, site specific public land management for many decades;
  • Identifying new source water/forest management strategies that cross agencies and land ownership and that modernize policies to increase the pace and scale of ecologically-sound forest restoration;
  • Implementing forest restoration activities that lead to healthier headwaters, diverse recreational opportunities, improved carbon sequestration, and reduced systemic threats to our rivers and streams;
  • Respecting the positions and initiatives undertaken by local agencies, groups, and counties, who are best equipped to navigate competing interests related to healthy forest management and watersheds among diverse community stakeholders.

Adopted 4/8/2021

*This resolution was created in conjunction with the Water Committee

Resolution in PDF Format