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Prospect Basin Fens Project

A Program of the Telluride Institute


Prospect Basin Fens Project

Restoration on Spruce Fen


Prospect Basin Fens Project

Ecological Education



Prospect Basin, located at an elevation of 11,000 feet in the Telluride Ski Resort (TelSki), is home to five unique wetlands called fens.  TelSki implemented significant measures when building ski runs in this area in order to protect the rare ecosystems of the fens, which are particularly high in biodiversity, function as carbon sinks, and help store and filter water high up in the watershed.

The Telluride Institute’s Director of Science and Research, Dr. Evan Iverson, is working in partnership with TelSki, wetland ecologist Dr. David Cooper, emeritus, Colorado State University (CSU), and others, on various environmental studies in the Prospect Basin Fens.  Through these partnerships, TI also engages the public in educational programs on topics such as plant identification, natural history tours, and hands-on ecological restoration.  TI partners with CSU and Western Colorado University (WCU) to help facilitate graduate student research in the fens.   Through these actions, TI creates learning opportunities for all ages that help foster a greater understanding and appreciation of these unique, high-elevation wetlands.

We are currently seeking critical support for a 2024 research initiative,“Vegetation Mapping of the Prospect Basin Fens.” This project will capture and record high-resolution spectral imaging of all five fens in Prospect Basin with the ultimate goal of monitoring changes due to climate change.

Our fundraising goal for this research to come to fruition is $30,000.  $10,000 for the next year supporting an internship for Western Colorado University Masters student, Bradley Sowder,  and $20,000 in funding for the necessary equipment (drone-based sensors, associated software).



Funding TI received to support this project was provided by: A GOCO Resilient Communities Grant in collaboration with Montezuma Land Conservancy, Telluride Academy, Patagonia, CCASE, San Miguel County, Town of Mountain Village and TMVHOA (Town of Mountain Village Homeowner Association). TI plans to perform a similar restoration activity in Cottongrass Fen in the Fall of 2022.


Approved by the TI Board in 2017, the Prospect Basin Fens Project is a continuation of the work former Commissioner Art Goodtimes did in focalizing protection of the Prospect Basin Fens during the Ski Area Expansion two decades ago. Goodtimes negotiated a settlement between Telluride Ski & Golf Co. and San Miguel County that allowed the expansion to go forward with certain mitigations, including sufficient money to hire Dr. David Cooper of CSU (world expert in fens) to initiate a monitoring study of Prospect Basin’s four fens and to review expansion plans to ensure protection of the fens. The latter involved moving infrastructure and other changes that Telski agreed to make in response to Dr. Cooper’s concerns.

When the expansion ended, Goodtimes organized a Prospect Basin Fen Advisory Group through the Intergovernmental process that he and the two town mayors had created. All three government entities — San Miguel County, Town of Telluride and Town of Mountain Village approved funding for several years to help ensure that Dr. Cooper’s longitudinal monitoring study would continue. Eventually Dr. Cooper was able to find his own funding for the study, and with the newly founded Mountain Studies Institute, Goodtimes (who was on the MSI board at the time) asked MSI to help manage the study, as they were interested in fens all over the San Juans.

In recent years, MSI has moved in many different directions, and Dr. Cooper was without assistance in keeping his study going. So Goodtimes, who retired from local government at the beginning of 2017, convinced TI to take on an assistance role in continuing the good work on fens in this watershed as part of it’s Environmental Studies Program. Goodtimes is program director of the Prospect Basin Fens Project.


A fen is one of the main types of wetland, the others being grassy marshes, forested swamps, and peaty bogs. Along with bogs, fens are a kind of mire. Fens are minerotrophic peatlands,[1] usually fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater.[2] They are characterised by their distinct water chemistry, which is pH neutral or alkaline, with relatively high dissolved mineral levels but few other plant nutrients. They are usually dominated by grasses and sedges, and typically have brown mosses in general including Scorpidium or Drepanocladus.[3] Fens frequently have a high diversity of other plant species including carnivorous plants such as Pinguicula.[4][5] They may also occur along large lakes and rivers where seasonal changes in water level maintain wet soils with few woody plants.[6] The distribution of individual species of fen plants is often closely connected to water regimes and nutrient concentrations.[7][8] –Wikipedia


Dr. David Cooper, Colorado State University
Telluride Ski & Golf Co. (Jeff Proteau)
United States Forest Service (Matt Zumstein)
Telluride Institute (Art Goodtimes & Dan Collins)
Wilkinson Public Library (Laura Colbert & Elissa Dickson)
Ah-Haa School for the Arts (Jessica Newens & Judy Kohin)
Sheep Mountain Alliance (Lexi Tuddenham)
San Miguel Watershed Coalition (Elizabeth Stuffings)
Chris Hazen, environmental consultant


The prospect basin fen project is a wonderful example of public/private collaboration as well as agency/community cooperation. it is one of the public land success stories in the recreation sector. It is something the ski area and the forest service ought to use as a model of successful ecological adaptation through a federal/corporate/academic/local government partnership.

Cooper’s students bring past reports (via powerpoint or other media) to catch the community up on this long-term fen study and its value to Cooper’s work — as well as the Telluride community.

Exchange with government reps and folks from the ski area.

A chance for the community to see what the ski area and Dr. Cooper have done together to protect the fens. it’s a great story

Jeremy Sueitenfuss has received a research grant to evaluate the restored peatlands on the Telski Mountain Village golf course.


Evan Iverson, PhD
Program Director, Fens Research
Telluride Institute

Jeffrey Proteau
Telluride Ski Resort

David J. Cooper, PhD
Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship and Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA


Need more information?

+ please contact Fens Director, Dr. Evan Iverson

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