A collaborative effort to improve ecological outcomes through increased quantity and diversity of native plant materials along Colorado’s Front Range.
Why Do We Need A Strategic Seed Reserve?
Wildfires and floods pose some of the greatest threats to watersheds, life, and property along the Front Range of Colorado. However, the necessary quantity and diversity of seeds necessary to adequately restore our watersheds and create resilient landscapes following a disaster has been a challenge to provide in the short window of recovery following fires and floods. At the same time, the intensity and frequency of fires and floods is expected to grow over time in the Front Range.
The demand for ecotypic (i.e., locally adapted native plants) and for a greater diversity of native plant materials in our region is difficult to address by private industry or other traditional means due to the lack of unified and consistent demand.
Furthermore, the plant materials required to adequately restore watersheds and floodplains following a large-scale fire or flood are often unavailable, economically impractical, or do not always address the diverse needs of land managers.
Some plant materials concerns expressed by land management agencies during post-fire & flood recovery efforts include:
- Lack of a greater diversity of native seed and nursery stock needed to stabilize slopes and re-vegetate floodplains while providing greater ecosystem benefits;
- Lack of quantity of desired seed nursery stock within the short window of recovery;
- Seed mixes that do not meet specific weed-free thresholds.
A Key Challenge to the wildfire and flood prone Front Range of Colorado is that no individual land manager or landowner knows when or where disaster will occur, and hence they cannot plan adequately for the tremendous quantity of seed needed to sufficiently restore their watersheds following a fire or flood. By developing a strategy that spans a broad geographical area and involves multiple landowners and agencies, the seed reserve program will work proactively to develop ample and diverse seed sources to meet the needs of disaster-impacted communities in any given year. Only by collaborating among a broad partnership can we resolve this challenge in a proactive manner.
As a non-profit organization whose mission is focused on collaborative plant materials development, the Southern Rockies Seed Network is in a unique position to facilitate this partnership and produce creative and impactful solutions to this unique challenge.
Just Completed: A Feasibility Study
The Southern Rockies Seed Network developed a broad stakeholder group to determine the feasibility of creating an impactful strategic seed reserve to meet post-disaster restoration needs on the Front Range of Colorado. We held four feasibility study meetings from August-October. The feasibility study involved a broad range of impacted landowners, coalitions, water users, and land management agencies to evaluate the specific needs for post-disaster plant materials (e.g., type of material, species, quantity, timing, and weed concerns).
Through interviews, surveys and planning meetings, we gathered perspectives and relevant information. SRSN is drafting the final feasibility report, which will be posted to the website soon.
The strategic seed reserve leverages regional resources to improve ecological outcomes such as increased biodiversity, reduced sedimentation of streams, and improved wildlife habitat on a watershed scale. A diverse plant community helps to build resilient landscapes that can better weather fires and floods.
Thoughts on the Strategic Seed Reserve from Our Partners:
Lack of availability of reliable, affordable, native seeds was one among many barriers that hindered post fire recovery after the High Park Fire. If fully implemented, a strategic seed network could improve the ability of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed and other restoration practitioners to more efficiently respond to disasters and improve post disaster outcomes for watersheds and communities.” –Jennifer Kovecses, Executive Director | Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed
“As a watershed restoration organization created by natural disaster in the Colorado Front Range, we understand the importance of preparedness and strategic planning for inevitable future flood and wildfire recovery needs. This seed reserve project could vastly improve the ability of the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition to assist public and private land owners respond to post-disasters land management needs and ease the decision making process and response time of sourcing high quality native plant material for recovery during emotionally and physically arduous times. An emergency response native seed bank has the potential to support restoration of floodplains and watersheds, improvement of post-disaster habitat for terrestrial species, improvement of riparian areas area health, reduction of erosion in fire-impacted watersheds, and improvement of our collective ability to effectively and efficiently respond to disasters.”–Courtney Gutman, Director | Big Thompson Watershed Coalition