Uncompahgre Plateau Collaborative Restoration Project

The Uncompahgre Plateau Collaborative Restoration Project (UP CFLRP) was born from relationships and successes established through various partnerships and past collaborative projects between the Uncompahgre Partnership, US Forest Service, local and county governments, interest groups, industry and others.   The Mission Statement of the project is to enhance the resiliency, diversity and productivity of the native ecosystem of priority National Forest System lands on the Uncompahgre Plateau, Colorado using best science available and collaboration.

The Uncompahgre Plateau is located within five counties on the Western Slope of Colorado and includes key watersheds that feed the Colorado River.  The Plateau provides important wildlife habitat while also supporting many human uses including recreation, commercial timber harvesting and livestock grazing.  There has been a significant amount of rigorous scientific studies accomplished that demonstrate a clear need for restoration on the Plateau.  It has been shown that many of the forest types are outside of their historic conditions, thereby increasing potential for high intensity wildfire, and insect and disease damage.

Through collaborative processes, general agreement has been reached on the need for active treatment on the Plateau to address forest health, fuels and restoration needs.  This agreement led to the development of the UP-CFLRP, a comprehensive 10-year project covering approximately 555,300 acres.  The proposed work includes active restoration on 160,000 acres that involves prescribed burns, mechanical treatments, timber harvests, invasive species treatments, native plant establishment, trail and road relocations (sediment control), riparian restoration and improvements for Colorado cut throat trout.  The partners successfully submitted a grant through the USDA’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program in 2010.  The UP-CFLRP was one of ten projects recommended nationally for “award” by the advisory committee and approved by the Secretary of Agriculture.   The result was a 10-year, approximately $8.5 million dollar grant.

10-Year Project Overview:

  • 160,000 acres of landscape‐scale fuels and restoration projects that create jobs while supporting local industry, reducing fuels, and ultimately restoring a landscape to support natural fire and proper functioning ecosystems.
  • 55,000 acres of broadcast burning
  • 650 acres of critical powerline fuels treatments.
  • 292,000 CCF of forest product will be created. (Approximately half of which is commercial timber volume).
  • 750 part‐time/seasonal jobs created as a result of project implementation.
  • 68,000 acres of collaborative ‘Citizen Scientist’ multi‐party monitoring to assess effectiveness of restoration activities and offer educational opportunities.
  • 9,200 acres of coordinated treatments of noxious weeds.
  • Over 3,700 acres of reseeding with key native plants.
  • Climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies developed and integrated.
  • Water quality, water yield, and stream habitat enhancement within key Colorado River watersheds.
  • Benefits to T&E and sensitive species, including Gunnison sage-grouse, desert bighorn sheep, and Colorado River cutthroat trout.
  • A woody biomass supply and feasibility assessment for the entire Plateau.
  • Involvement of local youth, providing work, job skill training and educational opportunities.

The project will apply the UP’s model “Uncompahgre Mesas Collaborative Forest Restoration Demonstration Project” (Unc Mesas Project) as a guide for restoration efforts. The Unc Mesas Project, which is one of the largest projects included in this proposal, was developed with the guidance of the Colorado State University’s Colorado Forest Restoration Institute (CFRI) and includes 17,000 NEPA-ready acres of mixed confer and ponderosa pine, critical to restoring natural fire regimes on the Plateau.  This model, which has brought numerous diverse partners together, effectively working in a manner of trust, provides collaboratively-developed restoration guidelines, which will be used for future proposed restoration projects.

Several proposed projects offer critical fuels reduction treatments along two energy corridors. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association (Tri-State) operates a 115 kV transmission-class line that delivers power to local and regional energy providers such as Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) and San Miguel Power Company. The other corridor includes a 345 kV line owned by Western Area Power Association (Western).  This line primarily transmits power originating from federal hydro-generation facilities in Colorado and transports this energy to high demand areas from Nevada to California. This line is an important component of the national grid of power lines supplying energy to areas with critical needs.

The towns of Montrose and Delta lie at the base of the Plateau and are home to the last remaining large sawmills in Colorado.  These mills are vital to meeting forest health and safety objectives across the State of Colorado.  A locally sustainable supply of wood products from the Western Slope is critical to the economics of the mills.

The UP-CFLRP is cradled in science, creates jobs while supporting local industry; reduces fuels and ultimately restores a landscape that will support large-scale beneficial fire. We will apply adaptive management to guide our actions and monitor our efforts.  We intend to eventually reduce forest management expenditures, including wildfire suppression costs, support local industry, and engage new economic opportunities. This project will afford active management of forests and rangelands, while creating greater resiliency to natural and man-caused disturbances with an eye towards warmer and drier climatic conditions predicted in the future.

For more information on the project, visit their website at: www.westerncolc.org/