Restoration/Resilience-Building of Riparian and Wet Meadow Habitats: Upper Gunnison River Basin, Colorado

​The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Gunnison County, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, USDA Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other partners constructed over 1,000 restoration structures in wet meadows and riparian areas within eight watersheds in the Upper Gunnison River Basin from 2012-2016. Wet meadows provide important habitat for the threatened Gunnison Sage-grouse, neo-tropical migratory birds and other wildlife, yet are vulnerable to increased drought and erosion from high runoff events associated with a changing climate. The structures, e.g., one rock dams, designed by restoration expert Bill Zeedyk, are effectively working to: 1) slow and store water during flow events; 2) reduce erosion and stabilize head cuts; and 3) increase wetland plants and insects. This project is an important demonstration of simple yet effective tools to increase hydrologic/ecologic function and resilience of wet meadow and riparian areas within the semi-arid sagebrush ecosystem. The methods are already being adopted and replicated by partners both in the Basin and by others working to conserve the satellite populations of the Gunnison sage-grouse. The techniques have high potential for application at a much larger scale across the Basin and the region.