Dear Conservancy supporters,
Our new 5-year strategic plan (2020-2025) aims for impact at a scale that matters. This landscape view of conservation means we need to focus equally on work that supports healthy ecosystems, builds resilient communities, and protects our rural quality of life.
Through thoughtful and meaningful community discussions, we’ve expanded our focus on traditional land protection to include leadership on water planning efforts—especially for our rivers and wetlands. Many of these riparian areas are on private agricultural lands, making collaborative solutions with our ranching neighbors so important.
Read on for more information about our current water and agriculture projects and consider volunteering with us to support local ranchers and wetlands this spring.
Compelling new research on the South Arkansas
Results of a river health assessment & fluvial hazard zone mapping
Our most recent work on the South Arkansas River—which provides the City of Salida with drinking water—focuses on the lowest 1.2 miles of this "little river" from County Road 107 downstream to the confluence with the main stem of the Arkansas.
While we tend to think of rivers as a single-channel thread, in reality they are dynamic systems that meander and flood and—as this mapping exercise shows—the active river corridor or "riverscape" occupies a much larger space.
The South Arkansas river health assessment shows that this riverscape has been significantly altered by human impacts over time, constricted by increasing development, lower flow volumes, and lacking biological diversity due to clearing of vegetation, trees, and debris. The lack of complexity along this stream is a sign of diminished function with consequences for both human and non-human inhabitants.
Increasing the health of our riparian areas helps build our resilience to drought, wildfire, and flooding, while protecting some of our most valuable habitat and ecosystem services in the face of rapid growth and ever more visible climate change.
In our arid climate, we need to make the most of the little water we have, and we need to protect our riparian areas for the vital services they provide.
This river health assessment identifies conservation and restoration opportunities that are quickly vanishing along this urbanizing reach of the river and provides some ideas for building practical resiliency.
We hope that this report will inform the City’s Vandaveer Planning Process, land use decisions, and stream management planning moving forward.
Read the full assessment here.
Upper Arkansas Watershed Partnership
A collaboration of organizations and individuals working together to increase watershed health
This newly formed partnership includes many of the area's water and riverscape stewards, including leadership from the Conservancy and the Upper Arkansas Conservation District, Trout Unlimited, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the River Network, and the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative.
What makes this collaboration different is the recognition of needing to include agriculture in conversations around water. Future research will conduct a needs assessment relative to water rights and irrigation for agriculture, which has been identified as a top challenge for working lands in Chaffee County.
Earlier this month, we received a planning grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to build on what's already been done in the Upper Arkansas River Watershed, including the South Arkansas stream management plan.
The South Arkansas pilot provides a good model for how we can bring the best available science to inform future land use and identify key conservation and restoration opportunities.
These efforts are part of a larger strategy with the Colorado Water Plan, which lays out the goal of 80 percent of locally prioritized rivers to be covered by stream management plans by 2030.
The Conservancy in the news
With federal goals of protecting 30% of our country's lands and waters by 2030, privately owned lands and our Community Conservation Connection program are getting some attention.
We'd like to see more of you!
Here's how to get involved, there's something for everyone.
At the Conservancy, one of our favorite things is connecting with members of our community. COVID has made getting together difficult over the past year, but we haven't forgotten about you and we hope you haven't forgotten about us either!
Here are some ways to get involved:
March 31st @ 10am | Coffee with the Conservancy - Dig deeper into the Community Conservation Connection program and hear directly from our staff at this virtual event. Join here.
Coming soon | Good Neighbor Workshop - This springtime online workshop will help you be a good neighbor to the ranchers in our community. It's all about ditches, fences, and dogs. Event details coming soon.
Coming soon | Hands for Lands - This summer, we're bringing back our hands-on conservation volunteer program. Things will look a little different this year, but we're eager to get volunteers back in riverscapes and on ranches. Stay tuned for details.
Year-round | Become a Member - Your donation helps us do important conservation work throughout Central Colorado.
Have land and curious about conservation? We'd love to meet up and discuss the possibilities. Know someone who might be interested? Forward this email or call us: (719) 539-7700.