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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

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PROSPECT BASIN FENS PROGRAM

Prospect Basin, located at 11,000 ft on Telluride Ski Resort (Telski) is home to five unique wetlands called fens. Telski implemented significant measures when building ski trails on this part of the resort, 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.

Telluride Institute (TI) has partnered with Telski and Wetland Ecologist Dr. David Cooper from Colorado State University(CSU) to provide people of all ages opportunities to interact with Prospect Basin’s Fen’s. Through these partnerships, TI engages the public in educational programs on topics such as: plant identification, natural history tours and hands-on ecological restoration activities. TI partners with CSU and Western Colorado University (WCU) to help facilitate graduate student research in the fens. Through these actions, TI creates experiential learning activities for all ages that help foster a greater understanding and appreciation of these unique high altitude wetlands.

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2021 Update

In 2021, TI helped facilitate two students affiliated with CSU in their research in the fens. Kate Miller, a graduate student from University of Nebraska Omaha, began conducting a robust study on the fens carbon budget. With this research, she hopes to understand how effective the fens are at sequestering greenhouse gases. Eduardo Oyague Passuni from CSU is compiling 20 years of hydrological data and continues to monitor groundwater wells in Prospect Basin. Both Kate and Eduardo’s will discuss their research more in depth at a presentation in the Fall of 2022. Stay tuned for exact dates and location.

This summer TI partnered with Telluride Academy and Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC) to engage nine highschool students in an ecological restoration project in Spruce Fen TI and MLC provided three scholarships for regional participants via a GOCO Resilient Communities grant . Academy students got the chance to learn about wetland ecology, plant identification, wetland history and the story behind the preservation of the fens with the ski resort. The restoration site was identified by Dr. David Cooper during a previous visit in early June. The group of Academy kids led by their instructors, TI staff and additional volunteers performed the restoration.

FUNDING PROVIDED BY

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.

PROSPECT BASIN FENS PROJECT HISTORY

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.

HOW IS A FEN DIFFERENT THAN A BOG?

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

FEN PARTNERS

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

PRELIM FEN ADVISORY NOTES 2017

ART:
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.

IDEA:
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.

IDEA:
Exchange with government reps and folks from the ski area.

IDEA:
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

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

STAFF & CONTACT INFO

Tucker Szymkowicz
Program Director
Fen Advisory Project
Telluride Institute
tucker@tellurideinstitute.org

Jeffrey Proteau
JProteau@tellurideskiresort.com
Telluride Ski Resort

David J. Cooper, Ph.D. Senior Research Scientist/Scholar/Professor
Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship and Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
Office: Room 214 Natural Resources Building
Phone: 970-491-5430
Email: David.Cooper@colostate.edu
WebSites: https://sites.warnercnr.colostate.edu/davidcooper/
http://yellowstonewillows.colostate.edu

PROSPECT BASIN FENS NEWS & EVENTS