We have already talked about the Forests to Faucets partnership effort in Colorado here and here. I raised the question at the time (2012) and I think it’s still relevant.. why do watershed projects seem to have fewer critics? As I said then:
I wonder why this water partnerships like this are a New Mexico/Colorado phenomenon and not a California/Montana phenomenon? Maybe I just don’t know about them elsewhere? Maybe the lack of a forest industry means that these things can happen without the timber wars ghosts? Ideas?
The Santa Fe Fireshed is so big, what can be done?
Protect communities by mitigation activities in the wildland-urban interface.
Promote fire adapted communities. Learn more at www.fireadaptednm.org. This includes mitigating fuels, assessing wildfire risk to structures, evacuation planning and drills, awareness, and education.
Develop a landscape strategy that uses a collaborative process to identify landscape priorities and values at-risk.
Conduct project planning at the landscape scale in high priority areas. On federal managed lands, this includes National Environmental Policy Act planning.
Make use of the suite of land management tools that fit the landscape. This can include strategic thinning, fuels modification through chipping and mastication, wood utilization where appropriate, and the use of fire to reduce fuels. The use of fire may include burning piles, broadcast burning of the forest understory to mimic natural fire regimes, or using wildfire for resource benefit when firefighter and public safety allow.
This seems like a comprehensive both/and approach.
Here’s the latest on Forests to Faucets from February:
DENVER — Over the next five years, Denver Water, the U.S. Forest Service – Rocky Mountain Region, Colorado State Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest $33 million in forest restoration projects to treat more than 40,000 acres within Denver Water’s critical watersheds.
Under the From Forests to Faucets partnership, the U.S. Forest Service – Rocky Mountain Region has been working with Denver Water since 2010 to implement forest and watershed health projects.
The goal is to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and restore forests impacted by wildfires surrounding reservoirs, as well as minimize erosion and sedimentation in reservoirs. More than 48,000 acres of National Forest System lands have been treated so far with fuels reduction, restoration and prevention activities.
Here are some hypotheses for why the “thinning doesn’t work” seems to be more popular in the Northwest and California.
1. They don’t have direct experience with bad fire/ water provider events (reservoirs filled with silt).
2. Water is not as important to them as they are wetter climates (although California gets water from Colorado..).
3. Different environmental groups in those areas are successful at framing the issue as being about “houses” or “logging the backcountry.”
4. A leftover of the timber wars.. so many people and organizations were developed to fight the wars, cooperation toward shared goals does not resonate the same way. People developed a lack of trust in the Forest Service, so that any utilization of wood resonates as a bad thing.
5. Related to #4, big universities full of scientists tend to be on the wet west side of Washington, Oregon and California, producing ideas and observations that might not fit the Interior West. Somehow they tend to take over the framing as being about returning to HRV, not about protecting values at risk.
Feel free to add your own hypotheses and thoughts..also feel free to give comments and additions/deletions to the table.