Land Trust program building resilience on Glade Park

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Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, November 27, 2023-

On Glade Park, just a few miles west of Grand Junction and above the Colorado National Monument, the Colorado West Land Trust is helping landowners manage their properties for drought and wildfire, while developing a conservation management program that can be implemented across western Colorado.

This year was the first year of a three year grant funded program on Glade Park and Pinon Mesa that aims to show how to successfully improve a landscape’s resiliency, Colorado West Land Trust Conservation Manager David Varner said.

“We have real strong relations with the community in Glade Park because we’ve done a lot of conservation easements up there,” Varner said. “It’s where we’re piloting our restoration and resiliency building program. We hope to do it throughout our service area.”

This program is being funded with a $400,000 RESTORE Colorado grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The grant is also supported with funding from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado and the National Forest Service, among others.

The work that is being done through this program will build resiliency on the land in a variety of ways. Varner said, one way is improving water retention by mimicking the activities of an animal that was once widespread — beavers.

“Sometimes that’s in the form of working within streams so they hold water later into the season,” Varner said. “We do that by adding these hydrologic structures. You may have heard the term beaver dam analogs, BVAs. This kind of simulates what a beaver would do in the ecosystem.”

The Land Trust is also working with the Grand Junction group Two Rivers Wildfire Coalition to help reduce wildfire risk on individual properties and around structures. It’s working with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to remove standing dead trees on public lands as well.

Not all of the work is focused strictly on habitat, with some helping agricultural producers to manage their properties for drought and water resilience. They have worked with CPW to identify agricultural seeds that require less water, Varner said, to help deal with drought or reduced irrigation.

“When an agricultural field doesn’t get the water that it was designed for, that gives an opportunity for weeds to move in and that makes that agricultural field less viable going forward and more expensive to maintain,” Varner said.

If this program is successful, Varner said it will help the ecosystem, including animals and fish, but will also improve water availability for the whole valley and help agricultural properties continue to be able to produce.

“We’ve been doing some of this work in Glade Park for several years now and with this new funding we’ll be able to bring new properties on board and essentially cover more area of those higher altitude properties,” Varner said.

“Our idea here is that if we are successful then we will see a difference in how the water flows down the slope and into the Colorado River and it will lead to greater water security down the road because there will be more water available later in the season.”

The past year has included a lot of planning for future projects, Varner said. Some of those projects will begin next year, but Varner said the Land Trust envisions this program continuing on well into the future.

“This is a three year project, but we don’t see it stopping after three years,” Varner said. “What we’re trying to do is build a process where it will be eligible for continued funding going forward. We want to demonstrate success and continue building support so that we’ll be able build the program into the future.”

By Dan West

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