Volume 11, Number 2 Summer 2000

Wetland Mitigation in Telluride

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By Deanna Belch


Wetlands form a significant part of the ecosystem of the Silver Mountain Landslide, a geographic feature that encompasses Telluride Mountain Village, in the western San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Between 9,000 and 11,000 feet in elevation, all surface waters within Mountain Village are tributaries of the San Miguel River, one of only two rivers in the state of Colorado without any dams on its main stem. Pressures from local development and recreational activities, along with historic agricultural and mining disturbances, have resulted in impacts on wetlands within the Silver Mountain Landslide physiograhic region. Telluride Ski & Golf Company is currently engaged with the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to restore many of the impacted wetlands in this area.The plan to mitigate wetland losses that have occurred was developed by Dr. David Cooper, Ph.D., CSU ecologist, the EPA, and Telluride Ski & Golf Company. This plan incorporates a combination of different activities, including restoration of the most ecologically important wetlands within the Town of Mountain Village.Phase one of the wetland mitigation plan consists of 12 unique project areas on the golf course, and in Town of Mountain Village open space. The mitigation plan incorporates wetland restoration, hydrologic restoration, and vegetative and hydrologic enhancement into the total mitigation of approximately 19 acres. A second phase of mitigation is expected to restore the hydrological and ecological functions of at least 15 acres of wetlands on the Prospect Creek valley floor alluvial fan. These willow and sedge dominated wetlands were drained in the late 1960’s, and have more recently been affected by cattle grazing and weed proliferation. Restoration of the natural hydrology on the alluvial fan should result in the emergence of various wetland types on the valley floor including willow communities, wet meadows, and sedge peatlands.

The wetland mitigation planning team uses historic aerial photographs and site investigations of hydrology, vegetation and soils data to determine specific mitigation goals at each site; reference areas are identified in nearby existing wetlands to develop final goals and success criteria for the mitigation activities. The projects proceed along a predetermined chain of events that includes data collection and analysis, statements of mitigation goals, and construction, planting and post-construction monitoring plans. Once the plans are finalized, construction activities occur, followed by planting of native plant material derived from seed or stem cuttings collected from the region.

The EPA, Dr. Cooper and Telski are pleased with the results: restored hydrologic regimes have allowed plant growth to surpassexpectations; wildlife populations present include beaver, tiger salamander, muskrat, kildeer, migratory waterfowl and songbirds; restoration of the connectivity of these migratory corridors has provided foraging opportunities for larger animals such as elk, coyote and black bear.

The Colorado Riparian Association will be taking one of the field trips during the annual conference to this site.

Telluride Ski & Golf Company’s planting crew adds finishing touches to a 1999 wetland mitigation project. All plant materials used for revegetation are derived from native seeds or stems collected in the area.