How Is Colorado Flooding Affecting Birds and Other Wildlife?
Humans fared far worse than avian species from the unprecedented weather.
Many of the areas affected are in the flood plains of the South Platte and the Poudre rivers, but they haven't experienced flooding in decades or more because of dams and other water diversions. Historically, flooding would have created seasonal wetlands and scoured large areas, creating a diversity of habitat in riparian stretches important for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and neotropical birds. "This event gives us a chance to reflect on what do we need to do to restore and protect our habitats around rivers," says Holloran.
Recent events exacerbated the flooding, which were triggered by widespread torrential rains. In all, at least five inches of rain pounded down on 17 counties in just a few days. The storm brought Boulder's annual precipitation up to more than 30 inches--more than half falling since September 9--eclipsing the previous record of 29.93 inches set in 1995. Much of the state has been plagued with persistent drought, and the dry conditions, coupled with recent forest fires, made it harder for the ground to absorb the water.
That's something that a new partnership aims to address. In July, the federal government announced a pilot project in the Upper Colorado Headwaters and Big Thompson watershed in Northern Colorado that will reduce the risks of wildfire to the water supply by restoring forest and watershed health.
"Doing nothing brings peril not only to the habitat we have left and the wildlife that depend on it, but to humans as well," says Holloran. "We have to restore and protect our watersheds."