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Learning from beavers: how humans are healing Colorado watersheds

Learning from beavers: how humans are healing Colorado watersheds via dams
Learning from beavers: how humans are healing Colorado watersheds via dams 02:40

Nearly three years after the Cameron Peak Fire devastated more than 208,000 acres in Larimer County, northern Coloradans are coming together to try and heal the land while protecting the critical watershed. In an effort to preserve and rehabilitate the Poudre River, which provides drinking water to hundreds of thousands, those with the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed are now taking it upon themselves to help clear the water of sediment and debris. 


"We are seeing some recovery in the burn area, but there is still a lot of work to be done," said Hally Strevey, Executive Director of the coalition. "These are real-world impacts that we are still seeing three years later." 

While some agencies, cities and organizations have attempted to complete aerial mulching, those like Strevey are trying to take a more natural approach to helping the region and watershed bounce back from the fire.  

Protecting the watershed is critical as major cities like Fort Collins and Greeley use water from the Poudre to provide drinking water to their communities.  

Those with the coalition are now helping build what they call "low-tech process-based restoration." In summary, the group is building manmade post assisted log structures along the watershed in areas where beavers once built their own structures. 

"It is low-tech because it is all done by hand," Strevey said. "We only use material on site, and it is low cost and really impactful." 

The idea of the post assisted log structures is that they allow water to continue flowing through the region while also catching and redirecting debris and sediment.  


"It helps provide a perfect opportunity to help the system recover after a wildfire," Strevey said.  

The team has built more than a dozen of the structures and says they've successfully helped redirect thousands of pounds of sediment and debris from traveling down into the Poudre River. The team also believes the structures will help regenerate the region and potentially lead to the return of beavers that will then continue to create structures of their own.  

"I would say this project has been extremely effective. Its looking great. The willows are coming back, it is functioning as we intended. It is exciting to see we have effectively restored this beaver meadow. And, as the years pass, it is only going to become more beneficial to the system," Strevey said.  

Those with the coalition will join many others, including CBS News Colorado's Dillon Thomas, at the annual Poudre RiverFest on Saturday, August 12, 2023.  

The event is free and family-friendly and takes place outside of New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins. The event will take place between noon and 6 p.m.  


Thomas will serve as the official emcee of the event. CBS Colorado is a proud media sponsor of Poudre RiverFest.  

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