After several weeks of aerial mulching operations on the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak (Poudre side) fire
footprints, mulching operations on the Big Thompson side of the Cameron Peak Fire began the week of
The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition (BTWC) has been working with partners since early 2022 to plan for
aerial mulching in priority areas of the Cameron Peak Fire in the Big Thompson watershed. A reassessment of
the fire’s burn severity done at the beginning of the year has guided the focus to the highest priority areas.
“With limited funding, we need to make sure we are making the biggest impact with our recovery dollars,” notes
Laura Quattrini, Director for BTWC. “The reassessment, coupled with the flash flooding events occurring since
July, have illuminated the areas with the biggest risk.”
Mulching efforts will focus on about 1,200 acres of severely burned areas in the Upper Miller Fork, Upper Sheep Creek, Cascade Creek, and Elk Creek drainages, most of which are on the Arapahoe & Roosevelt National Forest. By treating these areas, the expected result will be decreased potential for soil erosion and ash deposition, and increased rain absorption into the watershed, thereby protecting downstream water quality.
“We are excited to finally be underway with aerial mulching. It’s been a long process to get everything in place
to make the project happen,” Quattrini added.
Logistical hurdles including establishing funding agreements with the U.S. Forest Service, as well as waiting for an opening with the same contractor that both the East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire (Poudre side) recovery partners used delayed the initiation of work in the Big T watershed. The last obstacle the planning team faced was damaged from post-fire flooding to the only road to access the logging locations.
Luckily, the BTWC has the support of many of the landowners in the watershed. Landowners and the mulching
contractor, Western States Reclamation (WSR), made temporary repairs to the road necessary to get the
equipment in late last week.
“We wouldn’t be harvesting trees if it weren’t for the landowners. They helped to repair that roadblock,” Quattrini said.
The WSR equipment headed up the road to the private properties that are providing the source for mulch late
last week. Quattrini noted that “by working with the landowners and getting our wood locally, we were able to
drive down the costs of an otherwise expensive project. In turn, they get burned trees removed from their
property and the resulting mulch to help the soil recover. It’s a win-win partnership.”
Other partners have played an important role as well.
“We wouldn’t have been able to make this project happen if it weren’t for the support and funding provided by federal, state, and local agencies, including the City of Loveland, and our consultants. It really did take a team approach to ensure we get the desired outcomes by using the best available science.”
Mulching operations are expected to last 12 days and will complement the 750 acres of aerial mulching that
BTWC completed the Miller Fork and Black Creek drainages in 2021.