Winter 2021: Forming New Alliances and Wildfire Recovery

Aerial view of snow and ice forming on Shadow Mountain Reservoir early in November 2020, captured with our drone. UCRWG has been using drone technology to document changing conditions in the Upper Colorado River. 


Happy February! 

Before we dive into our winter newsletter, we'd like to take a moment to ask you all to join us in a snow dance. The Upper Colorado River basin was falling well below average for snowpack at the end of January, measuring only 68 percent of normal. Even with last week's storm, we're still well below average.

Here at UCRWG, we're hoping for some big dumps over the coming weeks, and not just so we can get out and play in it. Colorado and much of the western US has been in some form of drought for years and limited snowfall so far this winter means that Grand County is still listed as in "Exceptional Drought" or "Extreme Drought" by the US Drought Monitor. Less snow now means less water in the watershed throughout the spring and summer and even more severe drought into the fall, greatly increasing wildfire risk.

So put a stack of trail maps in your freezer, have a bonfire with your old skis or engage in whatever wacky ski town tradition you prefer to bring on the snow. Then call your representative to demand action on climate change and look at where you can make changes to live more sustainably, because warmer winters aren't just a drag on the local ski town economy - they are also a threat to the long-term environmental health and sustainability of the watershed we all love.

You can support efforts to address mounting environmental issues in the Upper Colorado River watershed from climate change by GIVING TODAY.



New Year, New Alliances

We're excited to announce that UCRWG is now a Colorado Riverkeeper Affiliate


Waterkeeper Alliance is a global network of grassroots movements working to protect the world's waterways.


The fastest-growing and largest nonprofit focused solely on clean water, the mission of Waterkeeper Alliance is drinkable, fishable, swimmable water everywhere. Waterkeeper Alliance connects more than 300 Waterkeeper groups worldwide working to protect more than 2.5 million square miles of rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways across six continents. Joining as an affiliate organization opens up a number of resources for the organization by plugging UCRWG into a global network of similar grassroots movements working to protect and restore local waterways. We're excited to start connecting with other Waterkeepers in the Pacific region and join a collective grassroots movement to preserve and protect our valuable water resources.

East Troublesome Fire Recovery

Aerial photos of devastation in the North Fork drainage caused by the East Troublesome Fire capturing the challenges we face in the recovery process. From helping our community members who lost so much to working to restore our forests and the health of our watershed, it will take a combined effort by all of us here in Grand County to overcome these challenges.

UCRWG and affiliates are actively working with landowners impacted by the East Troublesome Fire and partnering with a number of different Grand County entities involved in the long recovery process. UCRWG has been participating in the planning meetings of the East Troublesome Fire recovery teams, which is composed of local, state and Federal agencies.

UCRWG Board members will also be participating on two advisory groups set to be established in March 2021, pending the receipt of anticipated government funds. The advisory committees will focus on the burned areas to the east and west of Colorado 125.

UCRWG affiliate Geoff Elliot of Grand Environmental Services (GES) has been hard at work conducting outreach to property owners in the North Fork drainage who were impacted by the fire. Working with riverfront property owners, GES has started planning and implementing coordinated restoration activities, including establishing total burned acreage on each property and total burned acreage draining into the Colorado River. GES has also been working on identifying areas along the river length and floodplains that need to have trees and loose wood removed and areas needing revegetation.

Collaborating with the Colorado River District

Every five years, the state undertakes the momentous task of updating the Basin Implementation Plans (BIPs) for all of the river basins in Colorado. Slated for release in summer 2021, the updated BIP seeks to identify priority projects in each watershed.

UCRWG has been participating in this basin-wide update, which is composed of representatives from stakeholder groups from Grand and Summit counties and the Roaring Fork, Middle Colorado, and Grand Valley watersheds. UCRWG is also participating in the Grand County subgroup, which looks specifically at water use and need in the county.

 Looking Ahead: Pending grant applications for 2021

UCRWG recently submitted two proposals for grant funding that, if received, will help considerably in our efforts to both monitor recovery efforts in the North Fork and prioritize restoration and recovery needs across the Upper Colorado River watershed as a whole.

As part of efforts to aid recovery issues in the North Fork, UCRWG submitted a proposal to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to fund recovery efforts and support progress being made by private landowners. The monitoring will include water quality and benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, documenting riparian and upland vegetation recovery, and observations of fish recovery. The work will incorporate on-the-ground sampling and groundtruthing efforts, supplemented with documentation and analysis using drone imagery and high resolution satellite imagery.

Looking at the bigger picture, UCRWG recently submitted a proposal to the US Bureau of Reclamation for a WaterSMART grant. If awarded, the grant will support UCRWG in examining and documenting the environmental and social characteristics of the nine sub-basins that compose the Upper Colorado River watershed to create a comprehensive watershed management plan. This plan will create a framework for prioritizing basin needs in terms of restoration and recovery projects while also laying the groundwork for future funding opportunities to help rehabilitate our damaged watersheds and forests.





As a grassroots organization, we depend on the ongoing support from stakeholders LIKE YOU to keep doing what we do.

EVERY DROP COUNTS when it comes to donations, so please GIVE TODAY and support the source by helping to restore and protect the Upper Colorado River.

For more information on the kinds of programs your donation will help fund, please visit our website.

Contact us at to find out ways that you can get involved in the restoration and recovery of the Upper Colorado River watershed.

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