LightHawk mission helps restore watershed after Colorado wildfires


LightHawkBy AJ Chalom

In mid-July, members of Foundation Beyond Belief voted to approve a Crisis Response for areas affected by the Colorado Wildfires. We chose to donate to the volunteer fire departments to help them replenish their supplies after their firefighting efforts were finished. One of the beneficiaries was the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department (RCVFD).

Walker Bristol described the High Park Fire: “[Fire Chief] Bob Gann … posted a reflection to the RCVFD website: ’The High Park Fire certainly eclipses anything we have seen.’
“The plight of the Colorado volunteer firefighters isn’t one of heroes coming on horseback from beyond the horizon to help the endangered; it’s one of heroes emerging from the catastrophe itself. Fellow citizens, who go to the same drug store as the peers they’re protecting, … shouldered the burden of a threatened community themselves.”

Not only houses, buildings, and a community were burned—a forest and a watershed were also affected by the fire. Our current Natural World beneficiary LightHawk describes one mission in their newsletter, Waypoints. “[T]he High Park fire burned … more than 87,000 acres. The fire burned a large portion of the Poudre River Watershed, which serves as a primary source of water for the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley, as well as several rural water districts. With extensive areas of burned timber and unstable soils, heavy late summer rains caused severe mudslides that closed roads and made the Poudre River run black.”

Image: The mosaic of burn intensities is especially obvious on East and West Pine Mountains Credit: Michael Menefee/LightHawkThe community was not left to rebuild by itself: LightHawk joined the effort.

LightHawk reports, “[S]cientists, nonprofit organizations, and local government leaders got together and formed the High Park Restoration Coalition to ensure coordinated, well-planned restoration efforts. LightHawk was there in the early stages of the effort, flying leaders of the coalition over the burned area to inform their planning efforts …

“[On October 8,] seven LightHawk pilots … provided the aerial perspective to twelve additional community leaders. Passengers on these flights observed the effects and extent of the fire, and were also able to see volunteers on the ground actively working to stabilize soils with barriers and reseeding efforts. Following the flights, they met to share ideas and emphasize the importance of coordinating their efforts and working together to efficiently and effectively restore the watershed that they all depend upon.”

LightHawk’s Mission Map describes three missions, on August 30, October 7, and October 15, that related to this project. Search the map for dates and select “Wildlands” to find out more.