On July 23 we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue our partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Region 2 Office and the Colorado State Forest Service to fund critical forest management and wildfire risk mitigation projects in areas that surround our watersheds.
The agreement includes a $7 million commitment from Springs Utilities and matching dollars from our partners over the next five years to fund forest restoration projects on more than 11,000 acres and 75 miles within areas near our high-mountain drinking water supplies.
Eight million dollars is a sizable commitment, but when put into context with the $12 million required for infrastructure repairs to protect our drinking water after the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, it is money well spent.
"For our customers, this agreement represents an unwavering commitment to ensuring the protection of our drinking water supplies, nearby recreational amenities, and the forests that surround them from wildfire," said Chief Water Services Officer Earl Wilkinson.
The MOU upholds our longstanding partnerships and helps us prioritize our collective efforts to protect priority watersheds across the Pike – San Isabel and White River National Forests. In fact, our partnership with the U.S. Forest Service dates back more than 100 years when Congressional Grants established 30,000 acres of watershed reserve lands on Pikes Peak for the protection of our municipal water supplies.
Following the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, we formalized our partnership with the USFS by committing $2.5 annually for restoration in areas of West Monument Creek and to conduct treatments in the Catamount Project Area. Our water supplies span more than 3 million acres of forested lands in 10 different counties.
Preventative and visionary solutions like this MOU are what it will take to protect our community’s drinking water from the devastating effects of the ever-growing threat of wildfires. Forest management can reduce the risk and severity of wildfire events by mitigating the amount and structure of forest fuels.
"This agreement is truly representative of the collaborative legacy embodied by the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service -- a legacy that has focused on the protection of our natural resources and drinking water supplies across the state," Wilkinson concluded.
Rampart Reservoir following the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012.