Kawuneeche Valley Ecosystem Restoration Collaborative

KVERC is a collaborative of agencies and organizations focused on ecosystem restoration of the Kawuneeche Valley to support its ecological, economic and community well-being. It is committed to: 

  • Using an inclusive process that seeks and values input from the diversity of residents, businesses, landowners and interests in the valley. 
  • Strengthening the Valley’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. 
  • Developing comprehensive and ambitious restoration plans for implementation with local partners.
  • Achieving long-term benefits of a healthy environment, including improved water quality, wildlife habitat, drought resilience, and aesthetic and recreational value.

Who is KVERC?

KVERC is comprised of representatives from seven core organizations:

  • Town of Grand Lake
  • Grand County
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • United States Forest Service
  • Colorado River Water Conservation District
  • Northern Water

Why did KVERC form?

KVERC formed in early 2020 to facilitate an effective approach to restoration in the Kawuneeche Valley. The KVERC organizations share the goal of a healthy and resilient watershed, occupied by a mix of public and private landowners, which serves diverse ecological, recreational, and economic interests. No one organization can achieve a healthy watershed in this region on its own; the combined resources and expertise of KVERC and its stakeholders can accomplish more through collaboration.

Where is the Kawuneeche Valley?

The Kawuneeche Valley is the watershed that drains into the Colorado River, from the headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to where the river meets Shadow Mountain Reservoir in the Town of Grand Lake. It includes tributaries of the Colorado River and their riparian areas.

Riparian areas are crucial lands and biodiverse areas connected to riverscapes and water bodies. They are important ecological features because they serve as a buffer to pollutants entering the stream, control erosion, and provide an exchange of habitat and nutrients from the floodplain to the stream.

Why does the Kawuneeche Valley need restoration?

The Kawuneeche Valley has a long history of diverse land uses, and some of those now-abandoned land uses have contributed to impaired ecological function. For example, past land use activities in some areas have eliminated willows and other plant communities, dewatered wetlands, and reduced biodiversity needed in a high functioning ecosystem. In addition, the impacts of a changing climate have led to instances of unusually drier and warmer seasons, and this has exacerbated the negative ecological effects of the valley's historic uses. The combined effects and events led to the Kawuneeche Valley being unable to provide many of the ecological functions it used to support and we need it to support for ecological and social well-being: flood control, wildfire resilience, wildlife habitat, and drought adaptation. In short, restoration will help undo some of the adverse effects of historical impacts and enable natural cycles to perform more efficiently, which will lead to benefits for people, wildlife, and the ecosystem as a whole.

What are the specific plans for restoration?

KVERC identified three potential sites that would be highly suitable for ecosystem restoration based on the sites' degraded ecological status, and the likely success and cost-effectiveness of restoration activities. These sites are KVERC's focus for 2022, and include Beaver Creek, Holzwarth Ranch, and Onahu Creek, all located within Rocky Mountain National Park. KVERC will continue to assess areas within the valley for restoration feasibility, working with public and private landowners along the way.

The collaborative secured cash contributions as well as a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board: Watershed Restoration to initiate the first phase of our efforts. This project will support the Colorado State University team's work on the initial project planning tasks, such as assessing current conditions and identification of restoration opportunities.

Phase 1 Funders:

What is KVERC currently doing?

The current work of the collaborative includes several initiatives:

  • Assessing ecological stressors and sources of impairment within the watershed.
  • Identifying potential pilot sites for ecosystem restoration. Pilot sites currently being considered are within Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Reaching out to stakeholder groups within the area to learn about their interests, values, and ideas when it comes to restoration in the Kawuneeche Valley, and integrating this information into restoration plans.
  • Developing education and outreach plans for Grand County to build awareness and knowledge about the benefits of restoration in the Kawuneeche Valley.
  • Identifying and pursuing opportunities to leverage the resources and expertise of KVERC members and stakeholders to seek funding, build partnerships with landowners, and support a large-scale restoration initiative within the Valley.
  • Seeking partnerships with landowners to discuss possible ecological restoration opportunities.

Stay tuned for more details!

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