In Colorado, an estimated 90 percent of the state’s 800 species of birds, fish and wildlife depend on riparian habitat, even though these areas comprise less than two percent of the state. Specifically, over 90 percent of Colorado’s bird species critically rely on riparian habitats throughout some portion of their lifecycle. Healthy rivers and riparian zones rely on dynamic seasonal flows. Regrettably, riparian and wetland habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate across the arid West. Studies show losses of river and streamside habitat across the arid Southwest range from 40% to 95% percent of what existed historically. Native riparian trees and shrubs such as cottonwood-willow ecosystems that provide productive habitat for birds and other wildlife are disappearing as a result of extreme water development and invasive species. Riparian habitats are considered to be one of the region’s most endangered ecosystems and all that depend upon these habitats are at risk.
AUDUBON’S NEW REPORT ON CREATING A SUSTAINABLE WATER FUTURE FOR BIRDS AND PEOPLE IN THE AMERICAN WEST: WATER AND BIRDS IN THE ARID WEST: HABITATS IN DECLINE
There are solutions
Water management practices that fail to take into account ecosystem health and the impacts of climate change are the greatest threats to birds that rely on freshwater habitats in the arid West. Balanced water solutions support health, prosperity, and quality of life for rural and urban communities as well as recreation and the environment. Audubon Rockies has an important role in Colorado and Wyoming to protect and restore rivers and their riparian habitats by advancing science-based balanced water solutions, and on-the-ground native riparian and wetland restoration projects.
Get involved! See WRAN Events for upcoming Rockies’ sponsored restoration projects.
Together, we can make a difference for essential western river habitats that we all depend on. Explore our riparian and wetland restoration projects, below.
Colorado: Riparian and Wetland Restoration Projects
In 2016, Audubon Rockies partnered with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) for shared stewardship and restoration of Colorado’s ecologically-rich freshwater habitats. Support for restoration of riparian and wetland habitats is needed now more than ever. Through local fundraising efforts, Audubon Rockies sponsors riparian and wetland restoration projects in areas critical to both birds and people. These projects are meaningful ways to restore ecological processes, get our hands dirty, and connect with passionate volunteers!
Summary of 2016 Rockies Sponsored WRV Riparian and Wetland Restoration Projects
- St. Vrain Tamarisk Pull
- # Volunteers: 45
- # Volunteer hours: 390
- # Tamarisk pulled: approx. 100,000
- St. Vrain Flood Restoration
- # Volunteers on several events: 50
- # Volunteer hours: 440
- # Native plants/trees planted: ~1100
- Feet of stream planted: 600 ft.
- Big Thompson Flood Restoration
- # Volunteers on several events: 220
- # Volunteer hours: 2020
- # Native plants/trees planted: 6000+
- Feet of stream planted: 4000 ft.
- Peschel Open Space Riparian and Wetland Restoration
- # Volunteers three days: 135
- # Volunteer hours: 1100
- #Native plants/trees planted: 6,000+
- One mile of shoreline tamarisk pulled
- Intensive wetland restoration: .75 acre
- Riparian restoration 1.5 acres
- University of Colorado, Boulder, Restoration Planting Techniques Research
Summary of Spring 2017 Preliminary Rockies Sponsored WRV Riparian and Wetland Restoration Projects:
- Feet of stream restored: over 6,000 ft.
- Seeded and installed erosion control products: over 15 acres (650,000+ sq.ft.)
- Willows planted: over 10,000
- Container native plants planted: over 6,000
- Acres of tamarisk treatment: 5
- Total volunteers: 335
- Left Hand Creek Flood Restoration, 120 volunteers
- Campbell Valley Restoration, 62 volunteers
- Button Rock Restoration, 108 volunteers
- Estes Valley Flood Restoration, 45 volunteers
Wyoming: Platte River Revival
In 1948, a US Public Health Service Report stated the North Platte River from Casper to the Nebraska state line was "so grossly polluted with human and refinery wastes that it is doubtful if recovery can ever be obtained." Since that report, refineries have stopped dumping waste, sewage treatment levels have increased, and remediation has occurred. All of these steps helped to improve water quality, but habitat along the river was still abysmal. In 2006, the Platte River Revival was founded by the Two Fly Foundation and the City of Casper to "Foster a healthy and sustainable river system that is a catalyst for economic development and improved quality of life in the Casper area."
Since that time, multiple organizations, including Audubon Rockies, have partnered with the Revival to further this amazing project. We have improved habitat for 100+ species of migratory and residential bird species, 20+ mammal and herptile species, and 5+ species of fish. This continued success is thanks the aid of over 6,000 volunteers, 21 private organizations, and 9 government organizations since inception. All of these community partners have allowed the Revival to remove over 1,700,000 lbs of debris, 13,000 invasive Russian Olives, treat 20 acres of cheat grass, and reduce bank erosion by 821.4 tons per year. Audubon Rockies is an integral partner to this project, acting as an advisor on the Habitat Guidance Committee.
Miles of River Treated: 6 linear miles
13,700+ Russian Olives removed
Wire-wrapped over 2,000 trees
Treated 20 acres of cheat grass
Reseeded 20 acres of river uplands with native grasses
Pounds of Trash: 1,700,000+ lbs of debris removed
Reduced bank erosion by 821.4 tons/year
Partners: 21 private, nine government