Mitigation work aims to protect watershed and drinking water for Colorado Springs, reduce risk of catastrophic fire

Courtesy Colorado State Forest Service
A map showing planned mitigation efforts on the northern slope of Pikes Peak. The work mentioned in the article below is shown in teal.

A large wildfire mitigation project in Teller County will help protect a source of drinking water for Colorado Springs. The 300-acre project is just northwest of North Catamount Reservoir, one of 25 water sources for the city. 

Mike Till with the Colorado State Forest Service said mitigation efforts have been on-going on the northern slope of Pikes Peak for 30 years. He said this project will focus on removing some of the plants, brush and trees in the area in order to help prevent debris from entering the reservoir, if a fire were to happen.

"When a fire comes through and reduces the biomass by burning it up, it creates a hydrophobic soils and then all that material then drains into the water source and taints the water source for the population," he explained.

The $1 million dollar project is funded by a grant from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program (COSWAP). The agency is the result of state legislation passed in 2021 that created a fund to better manage forests and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Work should be done by 2025.

"A lot of what we're doing is maintenance of the forest. We're really trying to shift the risk of these wildfires," Till said. "We know it's going to happen. It just depends on where and when and how much damage they cause."

The work will be done with large machinery and by hand, depending on the terrain. Till said there are five mitigation projects planned for the area. The planned work near the reservoir will connect to other mitigated swaths of land with the goal of creating large fuel breaks.

"It's for the greater good of the population at large," Till said. "Whether that's Woodland Park, Green Mountain Falls, Colorado Springs, Divide, [or] Cripple Creek."

The Colorado State Forest Service will work alongside Colorado Springs Utilities Forest Management Division, U.S. Forest Service Pikes Peak Ranger District, Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and area governments to maintain the area.

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