Winning the big picture: Colorado partnership garners $50k for successful landscape management
by Jennifer Neville, Aug. 30, 2013
Group of volunteers learning about the ecosystem in Western Colorado. (Photo courtesy of the Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative)
Working together, federal and state agencies, local governments, environmental groups, public stakeholders and local utilities are improving wildlife habitats in Western Colorado’s natural spaces while reducing fire danger that threatens the landscapes and power lines.
Western is one of the partners of the Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative, which garnered the prestigious 2013 Colorado Collaboration Award and a $50,000 prize to further the non-profit's efforts.
“The ecosystems in Western Colorado are under attack from disease, drought and wildfires; and those are higher-level problems than just one entity can deal with,” said Western’s Rocky Mountain Special Programs Manager Ron Turley. “[The collaborative partnership] is a sign of the times in natural resources management. Natural resource managers realize that issues like these go beyond their jurisdictions and require partnerships with other government entities and the public. A broader landscape perspective and collaborative effort was the only way to get it done.”
Born out of a group focused on improving the ecosystem health on the Uncompahgre Plateau in the early 2000s, the group expanded in 2011 to cover other Western Colorado landscapes, including the Grand Mesa and Gunnison regions of Colorado.
“[Western’s] facilities traverse those landscapes, and we were maintaining the vegetation management on the rights of way, but we realized we needed to get involved to address concerns adjacent to our rights of way to fully protect our facilities,” said Turley. “That’s when we began to integrate our maintenance work with the broader scale plan – to support the bigger picture for the areas.”
The Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative is managed by Delta-based nonprofit Uncompahgre/Com and its core partners include the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Western and Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association.
Turley added, “It is benefitting our facilities and connecting with that master plan, so working with other agencies and interest groups just makes sense.”
The Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative partnership has earned several national awards and serves as an example in the utility industry of how to increase wildlife habitat and protect power lines on public lands from the danger of wildfires and other vegetation concerns.
“This collaboration is an outstanding example of how diverse groups with different interests can join together and work toward their common goals,” said Renny Fagan, President and CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association. “The level of collaboration they have achieved among local, state, federal and corporate stakeholders is impressive. They are doing remarkable work in Western Colorado to protect the environment, conduct scientific research, educate the public about natural resources, create jobs and strengthen local economies.”
“Western has been, and continues to be, an active partner because of our critical facilities in this region,” said Turley. “In fact, the types of effort we’re doing serve as national examples for our industry.
“We share our notes and best management practices through the North American Transmission Forum; and one of the first issues the Forum addressed out of the gate after it was formed in 2006 was vegetation management,” he continued. “We co-hosted an international workshop for the Forum with Tri-State Generation and Transmission last year in Montrose, [Colo.,] and toured the Uncompahgre Plateau power line protection projects. The Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative served as a model for how to work with other agencies, local government, environmental groups and other public interests to mitigate fire dangers to transmission lines.”
The Colorado Collaboration Award is a prize offered each year by a group of foundations and corporate funders to an outstanding nonprofit collaboration. The award will be officially presented at Colorado Nonprofit Association’s Fall Conference & Exhibition in Denver, Colo., Oct. 7.“We’re proud and excited to have been selected as the winner of the Colorado Collaboration Award,” said Pam Motley, Director of Uncompahgre/Com. “This prize will help us continue major initiatives such as the Escalante Forest Restoration Project.”