The Upper South Platte Watershed and the forests it contains provide highly valued ecosystem services to communities along the Colorado Front Range. The Upper South Platte Partnership (USPP) and Forests to Faucets partnership (F2F) lead cross-boundary collaborative efforts across forested areas of the watershed to enhance ecological resilience and reduce wildfire risk. Both collaboratives involve diverse stakeholders who are committed to learning through practice to increase the scale and effectiveness of forest restoration.
The USPP and F2F develop landscape resilience goals using science-based frameworks from RMRS-GTR-373 that balance principles for restoring historic forest structure, reducing the risk of severe wildfires, and enhancing community benefits from forests. Science informed project objectives were co-developed by diverse stakeholders to be measurable targets that manage forests through manipulating tree species composition, forest canopy cover, forest gaps, tree group arrangement, and fuel loading. This report: 1) evaluates outcomes of three phased USPP projects and four F2F projects in the context of partnership goals, and 2) synthesizes lessons learned gathered through structured adaptive management discussions with managers and partnership stakeholders.
Projects generally met objectives to reduce wildfire risk and approximate historic forest densities and composition to enhance ecological resilience in the Upper South Platte, even though some individual metrics such as spatial arrangement of forest structure were consistently more difficult to achieve. Continued momentum towards the application of fire as a management tool will greatly reduce risk of high severity wildfire and enhance forest resiliency to sustain ecosystem services under future disturbances and a changing climate. Co-development of goals and strategies to achieve every step of the adaptive management cycle was a key to successfully implementing complex science-based concepts, learning through mistakes, and achieving desired outcomes in the Upper South Platte Watershed.