South Platte Basin: The Nature Conservancy scores $1 million to enhance forest health #SouthPlatte

From Denver.CBSLocal.com:

Three companies on Tuesday donated $1 million to help sustain clean drinking water for Denver and other metro-area communities.

MillerCoors, PepsiCo and Wells Fargo donated the money to the Nature Conservancy also to help with forest restoration in the Upper South Platte River.

Heidi Sherk, with the group, said much of Denver’s water supply originates in the river. Protecting the forest and the water shed will help ensure a reliable supply, she said.

“After fires like the Hayman Fire, the water supply can be severely impacted through the erosion that happens after fires, which interrupts the supply of clean water,” Shrek said.

Years of aggressive fire suppression, coupled with periods of drought, have left more than six million acres of Colorado’s forests at risk for large and damaging wildfires.

Tuesday’s donation will be used to restore forests and clean water over the next three years by conducting restoration efforts on forest lands, including thinning trees, removing dry vegetation and conducting prescribed burns.

Here’s the release from The Nature Conservancy:

MillerCoors, PepsiCo and the Wells Fargo Foundation announced today that they are teaming up to donate $1 million to The Nature Conservancy to ensure a clean and sustainable source of water for Denver and neighboring metropolitan communities along the Front Range forests.

Colorado’s Front Range forests catch the winter snowpack and seasonal rains that replenish rivers and reservoirs and directly furnish drinking water to more than two-thirds of Colorado’s population. Years of aggressive fire suppression and prolonged drought have left more than 6 million acres of Colorado’s forests at risk for unnaturally large and damaging wildfires, threatening people, water and wildlife. 1.5 million of the 6 million forested acres at risk are in the heavily populated Front Range.

“We are grateful to MillerCoors, PepsiCo and the Wells Fargo Foundation for this generous donation,” said Heidi Sherk, The Nature Convervancy’s interim state director in Colorado. “The funds will enable us to increase the scale and scope of restoration, making an impact in this critical watershed that will truly make a difference.”

The donation will ensure that The Nature Conservancy, over the next three years, can design, implement and measure progress on a suite of forest restoration projects in the Front Range that will improve water security for the Denver metropolitan area and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires. Restoration efforts include thinning trees, removing dry vegetation and conducting prescribed burns.

“Water is an essential ingredient in beer, so at MillerCoors we are deeply invested in water stewardship efforts,” said Kim Marotta, MillerCoors director of sustainability. “We rely on Rocky Mountain Water from the Front Range Forests to brew our quality beers, so we are proud to stand alongside our partners and The Nature Conservancy to preserve this vital resource for years to come.”

“This critical watershed protection effort is the first project we’re working on with The Nature Conservancy as part of our recently announced Recycle for Nature partnership,” said Meagan Smith, PepsiCo North America Beverages director of sustainability. “ Joining together with MillerCoors and Wells Fargo will amplify the important work of preserving a vital water source for Denver. We believe simple acts can have a big impact and this project is a great way to begin our relationship with The Nature Conservancy and show our ongoing commitment to the communities in which we operate.”

“Wells Fargo is committed to being environmentally minded in all that we do. This includes finding ways to protect one of our most precious resources: water,” said Ashley Grosh, Wells Fargo vice president of environmental affairs. “We’re proud to join together with MillerCoors, PepsiCo and The Nature Conservancy on critical restoration efforts that are needed to build a more resilient future for communities in Colorado and the larger region.”

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

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