Thursday, August 9, 2007

Restoration work in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’re ever out west, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is one of those places you really have to consider visiting. Last weekend, about 60 or 70 volunteers with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) planted sedges and willow in RMNP.

The goal was to restore a former wetland that was demolished by a flood in 1982, when a man-made dam collapsed, sending flood waters down the Roaring River, through the park, and into the nearby town of Estes Park, Colorado. The flood also created Fan Lake where a wet meadow used to be.

In 1996, the Park Service breached the debris dam that had formed as a result of the flood (and which trapped the water forming Fan Lake), but the wet meadow never came back, in part because the hydrology of the area had been permanently altered. (The Roaring River entered the meadow at a different place post-flood, so the area never really dried out like expected.) Another problem was heavy elk browsing on willows trying to colonize the meadow after Fan Lake was drained.

To help restore the wetland, the Park Service rerouted the Roaring River back into its historical channel and fenced a large part of the meadow to keep elk out. To speed things along even more, they worked with WRV to plant nearly 20,000 sedges and almost 1,000 willow seedlings. In a few years, the recently planted vegetation will have continued to grow and will provide habitat for birds, cover for fish, and food for elk and moose.

Here’s a few pictures of the area taken by Desiree Holtz

You can see more pictures by Desiree of the area and the volunteers here.

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