Central Colorado Conservancy, a Salida-based nonprofit, was recently awarded $390,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The money is from the foundation’s Restoration and Stewardship of Outdoor Resources and Environment (RESTORE) program.
RESTORE began in 2020 with a goal of awarding grant dollars for restoration and enhancement of a variety of lands and wildlife habitats in the state of Colorado.
Central Colorado Conservancy works to protect land and water through conservation easements, restoration, outreach and education.
The foundation’s Rocky Mountain Regional Director Chris West said, “The efforts of private landowners, federal land managers and local conservation groups like Central Colorado Conservancy demonstrate the value of partnerships to restoration efforts happening at a landscape scale.”
All dollars from the grant will help the conservancy with its efforts along Badger Creek, which is a 100-square-mile watershed about 7 miles east of Salida.
A watershed is a drainage basin, and Badger Creek watershed is used by some Chaffee County landowners as a summer pasture.
Buffy Lenth, Central Colorado Conservancy watershed restoration specialist and coordinator for the Badger Creek project, said four landowners with ties to Chaffee County will benefit from the work through this grant.
In addition to private landowners, the partnership is composed of natural resource managers from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Colorado State Land Board.
The project focuses on developing alternative water points for gaining optimal use of upland pastures and reaping healthier plants, establishing fencing to control grazing and restoring riparians.
A riparian is a lush, green ribbon that is found along streams and rivers where there is additional water.
Riparians are valuable for wildlife habitats.
“Wetlands and riparian areas make up 2 percent of land cover, and 80 percent of wildlife species depend on these areas during their life cycle. Colorado has lost 50 percent of its wetlands over time; those wetlands and riparian areas are nature’s system for conserving fresh water,” Lenth said.
She said Badger Creek has a history of erosion, is prone to flash flooding and is known to spill sediment into the Arkansas River.
Their goal is to turn Badger Creek into a filter, so when there is heavy rainfall, they can slow down the stormwater runoff, capture more water and sediment, and grow more vegetation, she said.
West said making the upper section of the Arkansas River watershed more resilient to flooding, as well as droughts and wildfires, improves the habitat for native fish and wildlife. These efforts also benefit local communities.
Article originally appeared in The Mountain Mail.