After the High Park Fire destroyed 87,284 acres of Larimer County forest in June of 2012, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers came to help stabilize the slopes—and then again after the 2013 floods hit.
Over 560 volunteers mulched, seeded, and installed erosion control structures with WLRV at more than 20 post-fire events in 2013.
“They braved all kinds of weather, in some cases hiked miles carrying straw wattles on their backs, and worked really hard to treat millions of square feet of high-intensity burn area,” says Sara Egolf of WLRV.
The straw wattles were filled with sediment and sprouted grass seeds.
“Plant roots are the most powerful method of erosion control,” adds Egolf.
The photos were taken on September 23—just 12 days after the heavy rains started. These efforts successfully kept the soil on the slopes and out of the Poudre River and municipal drinking water sources.
“Sometimes fine sediment after a fire cannot be filtered out at all,” says Egolf.
WLRV has been preserving and restoring Colorado’s wildlands since 1999. I asked Sara how the projects have morphed since the September floods.
“River systems have natural flood traps that were destroyed,” she explains, “we can jump-start nature’s healing process by planting native species in disturbed areas.”
WLRV reseeded millions of square feet of damaged area with native species, assisted in miles of trail rebuilding, and completely reconstructed stream banks in Lyons.
“We had to turn away 70 volunteers in Lyons,” says Egolf.
As spring kicks off, WLRV is launching 100 projects for 2014. Many of the Boulder County projects work to remove Myrtle Spurge, a plant brought to Colorado in the ’80s as a popular zero-scaping option. It’s resistance to drought made it the perfect landscaping plant for our arid environment.
The problem is, says Egolf, “plants don’t care which land is private and which is public. Myrtle Spurge has no natural predators in Colorado so it’s taking over our public wildlands.”
According to Egolf, Myrtle Spurge is destroying the vegetation that native animals depend on–seriously taking a toll on our local ecosystem.
“It’s limited enough that if people work together, we can get rid of it 100%,” she says, and here’s how.
Public wildlands aside, Myrtle Spurge sap can cause blindness—and it’s in private yards throughout Jefferson and Boulder Counties. WLRV provides protective gloves and eye wear to ensure the safety of its volunteers dealing with Myrtle Spurge, and request volunteers for these specific projects be of 16 years or older.
WLRV has plenty of family friendly projects, too. Look for them on The Boulder Source or visit www.wlrv.org for a list of projects in your area.