US Forest Service

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Rio Grande Forest Service

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado

Southwest Conservation Corps

The activities described above will benefit watershed health, riparian corridors, and native aquatic species. Specific project outcomes include:


  • Documentation of current wet meadows and beaver habitat across the RGNF
  • Restoration of 5 miles of degraded stream and 200 acres of native riparian vegetation
  • Beaver reintroduction in suitable wet meadows to expand restoration outcomes
  • Volunteer and community engagement to assist with project activities, including data collection, restoration, and monitoring.



The Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) Wet Meadows Restoration Project is focused on improving the ecological health and function of high elevation meadows across the RGNF. When healthy, wet meadows help maintain streamflows and provide habitat for many at-risk fish species, such as the Rio Grande chub, sucker, and cutthroat trout. Over the years, these fish species have faced decline due to habitat loss, predation and competition from non-native species, wildfire, climate change, and disease. Additionally, riparian areas in the upper Rio Grande have ben impacted over time by road encroachment, development, recreation, grazing, mining, and other human activity. The North American beaver can be a valuable tool for watershed restoration as their dams have the ability to enhance aquatic habitat, improve channel function, and reestablish riparian vegetation.

This project is partnership between the RGNF, RGHRP, and local stakeholders to harness the restoration potential of beavers to address impacts to aquatic species and riparian areas across the headwaters.

Project Partners

Project Activities

Current Status

7/20/2020 - A Citizen Science event through Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado took place on the weekend of July 17 to collect data on streams with potential beaver habitat. Results from this event will help inform locations for relocation.

Project Funders

Project Outcomes

Background

This project seeks to protect native fish populations and restore wet meadow condition on the RGNF through the following activities:

Task 1: Habitat Characterization:

GIS modeling will be used to initially characterize habitat within Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) to identify suitable locations for restoration and beaver relocation. Once key locations are determined using the model, they will be ground truthed with help from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC). Staff from RGNF, RGHRP, and VOC volunteers will survey these sites to determine which are optimal for restoration.

Task 2: Habitat Restoration:

The highest priority streams as determined by Task 1 will be restored with willow cuttings, seeding, and low-tech stream restoration methods. This includes constructing structures to counter stream incision by reducing velocity and reconnecting the channel to the floodplain.

Task 3: Beaver Reintroduction:

Led by the RGNF, project partners will work to reintroduce beavers to suitable sites as identified in Task 1 or restored in Task 2. This effort will include the trapping and relocation of problematic beavers from the San Luis Valley floor into these sites, where they can maintain meadow function without negatively impacting human infrastructure. Family units will be moved together to maximize the likelihood of permanent establishment. The result will be long term, self-sustained benefits to watershed health, improving both aquatic and riparian habitat.

Task 4: Project Monitoring:

Sites will be monitored annually for three years following project implementation to determine the effectiveness of the previous Tasks. Monitoring will be completed by RGNF and RGHRP staff with assistance from community volunteers. 

RGNF Wet Meadow Restoration Project