by Alan Carpenter, Land Stewardship Consulting, Inc.
The San Miguel Watershed near Telluride
This year’s conference focused on the San Miguel River watershed (Photo 1) and the many important conservation projects that have been completed or are in the works. The conference a rousing success, with 80 paid registrants, which exactly equaled our planned attendance. At one point during Thursday’s session at the Telluride Conference Center, there was 103 people listening to the presentations.
The annual conference began on Wednesday afternoon with a field trip to the South Fork and the main stem of the San Miguel River. We visited a recently remediated mine waste pile on the Howard’s Fork San Miguel River where Pat Willits of the Trust for Land Restoration explained the remediation process. We drove a short distance to The Nature Conservancy’s South Fork San Miguel River Preserve where Caroline Byrd of TNC led the group on a short walk to the river so we could see a rare riparian plant community. Our next stop was the Bilk Creek property where Caroline explained how this important riparian property was recently protected by a conservation easement and how citizen concern about recreation was addressed. April Montgomery of San Miguel County Open Space met the group at the Applebaugh property that is just about the only large piece of flat ground for many miles along the river. April told us about plans for the property including recreation facilities and restored wetland and riparian areas. Our last river stop of the field trip was a new Bureau of Land Management recreation site at Specie Creek. Dennis Murphy of BLM told us about the San Miguel River Area of Critical Environmental Concern and Special Recreation Management Area, and led the group to the river to see an excellent example of riparian cottonwood forest. We also stopped briefly a short ways upstream to view a reach of the river that had been mined for gravel two decades ago. It was very impressive how see much the river channel had narrowed over the past 10 years due to willow invasion along the banks. We finished our field trip with catered supper at the Placerville Town Park.
Vern Ebert, San Miguel County Commissioner,
welcoming CRA members to Telluride.
Mark Uppendahl, Colorado Water Conservation
Board, discussing the in-stream flow program.
Thursday was devoted to invited presentations about key aspects of the San Miguel River watershed, beginning with a welcome from San Miguel County Commissioner Vern Ebert (Photo 2). Linda Luther of the San Miguel Watershed Coalition provided a most interesting overview of San Miguel County and some of the socio-political factors at work in the watershed. Mark Uppendahl of the Colorado Water Conservation Board explained CWCB’s in-stream flow program (Photo 3). April Mont-gomery joined the group again and recounted some of the things that San Miguel County is doing to protect the river’s watershed. Dennis Murphy of BLM provided an overview of the in-stream flow assessment of San Miguel River that BLM is spearheading. Amanda Clements, also of BLM, gave a primer on the ecology of San Miguel River Basin that dovetailed with the in-stream flow work that Dennis explained. As several speakers noted, recreation is one of the major threats to the health of the river and its riparian areas and wetlands. Leigh Sullivan of the US Forest Service has been actively involved in recreation management along the river for over a decade and showed some of the successes she and her colleagues have had in directing recreation away from sensitive areas and in cleaning up overused sites. Pat Willits explained the San Miguel River Restoration Assessment, a project that identified and ranked restoration projects along the river.
Jay Thompson, Matthew Judy, and Dennis Hall
enjoying the mountain air during
the lunch break on Thursday.
Johnnie Stevens giving his informative
and amusing presentation on
the history of Telluride.
After a pleasant lunch outside (Photo 4), Julie Ash of Aquatic & Wetland Company and Lance McDonald from the Town of Telluride told the group about a project that is now restoring a section of the San Miguel River in Telluride. Just a short ways upstream from that restoration site is the site of the Idarado Mine that has been reclaimed. Camille Farrell-Price of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told about the history of the mine and how the large pile of spoils has been stabilized. At that point, Jeff Proteau and Chris Hazen of Telluride Ski and Golf; David Cooper of Colorado State University; and Bill Johnson of Earth Resource Investigations began a tag-team presentation about the major wetland restoration work at the Mountain Village golf course. This set the stage for Friday’s field tour of several of the restoration sites. After an excellent banquet, Johnnie Stevens’ (Photo 5) presentation about the history of mining in and around Telluride Ski was a delightful contrast to the more serious presentations earlier in the day.
The conference ended with a half-day field trip of wetland restoration at Telluride golf course (Photos 6 through 9). The field trip was a perfect complement to the slide show that Jeff, Chris, David, and Bill gave the day before. The field trip showed just what a huge undertaking the wetland restoration has been. A clear lesson of the field trip is the importance of recreating the original hydrology to the extent possible. Telluride Ski and Golf graciously provided bus transportation for the field trip.
CRA tour of wetland reconstruction project. Bill Johnson tells how it was done.
Alan Carpenter explains TNC project along San Miguel River.
Randy Mandel discusses re-vegetation techniques.
Dr. David Cooper showing what was done.