The U.S. Forest Service has partnered with Trout Unlimited (TU) to restore aquatic systems lost in the two largest wildfires in state history — the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires.
The 2020 Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer and Jackson counties left much destruction in its wake once it was finally extinguished in early December 2020 after igniting on Aug. 13, 2020. In total, the fire had burned more than 208,000 acres, destroying more than 450 structures along the way. To date, it remains Colorado's largest wildfire in recorded history.
The 2020 East Troublesome Fire – the second-largest wildfire in Colorado history — ripped through Grand County until it was extinguished in late November 2020 after igniting on October 14, 2020. The fire burned a total of 193,812 acres, destroy 580 structures, including 366 residential structures, and kill two people who retreated to their basement to try to ride the fire out.
Both fires, along with the Williams Fork Fire, which burned roughly 14,000 acres, affected hundreds of thousands of watersheds across the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests, according to TU.
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The 10-year, $8 million partnership will "increase the pace and scale of post-fire recovery projects on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and more quickly restore access to areas impacted by fire," TU said in its release Wednesday.
According to TU, the project will focus on in-stream and riparian habitat restoration, native fish conservation and restoration and water quality improvement projects. It will also address Forest Service infrastructure.
“The 2020 wildfires continue to cause new damage to our water resources, threaten public safety, and impact access to recreation,” said Monte Williams, Forest Supervisor, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland in a statement. “We are looking to design projects that will help stabilize these slopes, enhance streams, recover fisheries, and restore recreation opportunities. Given Trout Unlimited’s track record, they are a natural fit to partner with on our post-fire recovery goals.”
TU and the Forest Service have worked together for the past decade on restoration projects. Last year, the TU and Forest Service entered into a 5-year agreement to implement projects on and adjacent to National Forest System lands. The two received $40 million in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.
“As a Coloradoan myself, I am really looking forward to working closely with Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and starting this important post-fire recovery work,” said Drew Peternell, Colorado State Director at Trout Unlimited, in a statement. “We think it will provide a model for post-fire recovery work in other National Forests and regions across the western United States, in addition to helping restore some of Colorado’s best recreation and fishing opportunities.”
The work is expected to begin in summer 2024.