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Under the oversight of Telluride Institute and new project director Tucker Szymkowicz, the Prospect Basin Fens Project secured new or continued funding through Patagonia Environmental Grants and San Miguel County, Telluride Ski and Golf and are waiting on approval from the Town of Mountain Village. The new funding will be used to help support the ongoing research efforts of Dr. Cooper and completing ecological restoration projects in Spruce and Cottongrass fens. The restoration projects are being organized by Telluride Institute and Dr. Cooper of CSU and will be carried out with the help of True North, a local non-profit, which works with underserved students in the Telluride region

In 2020 Dr. Cooper will expand monitoring efforts to include the addition of carbon sequestration monitoring devices as well as fund two undergraduate students to continue field based research and for one graduate student to compile the data from the last 20 years into a summative report. This report will be delivered at a presentation hosted by Telluride Institute and Dr. Cooper, which will be open to the public.

This year Chris Hazen led a Fens tour which was co-sponsored by Telluride Institute and Sheep Mountain Alliance. Chris Hazen provided participants with colourful background stories highlighting the challenges that the fens and wetlands in the area faced prior to their protection and restoration. Participants visited all five fens and experienced the floating mat at Buckbean fen. They also learned about some of the native flora specific to the fens ecosystem and the threats posed to these ecosystems..

Dr. Cooper returned twice for data collection in July and September and met with Tucker (TI) and Loren of True North to create a create a plan of action for the restoration project. The restoration project will be carried out in mid-September of 2020 and volunteers will be invited from the local community as well as open to True North students.

Tucker will continue to seek out new grant opportunities and is hoping to secure individual donors as well by creating a “friends of the fens” group. The group will be invited to a special tour of the fens and dinner with a presentation by Dr. Cooper. Time and location TBA.


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.


Tucker Szymkowicz
Program Director
Fen Advisory Project
Telluride Institute

Jeffrey Proteau
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