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News Release

Date: April 22, 2014

Lessons from the 2013 northern Colorado flood: Past, present, and future

FORT COLLINS, Colo., April 22, 2014 –The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests have teamed together to produce a science bulletin on the 2013 northern Colorado flood. This bulletin is a special edition of the regular series of Science You Can Use Bulletins. Entitled Our Relationship with a Dynamic Landscape: Understanding the 2013 Northern Colorado Flood, the Bulletin notes how the Research Station and National Forests are working together to inform recovery efforts and provide information on what to expect into the future. This Bulletin marks the beginning of a longer-term collaboration between research and management to address some of the ongoing challenges related to the flood.

The destruction and tragic loss of 10 lives that resulted from the September 2013 Northern Colorado flood was tremendous and included an estimated $2 billion in overall damages. The Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests assessed $44 million in flood damages from destroyed recreational facilities, more than 250 debris slides, and 382 miles of damaged roads – more than the entire north-south length of the state of Colorado.

This information comes at a critical time for the Front Range communities just beginning to recover from the 2013 flood. As we face this year’s spring runoff event, we anticipate there may be continued impacts including the potential for rockslides, landslides, debris jams, and future flooding. The Bulletin helps to contextualize the 2013 event, noting that destructive floods are not uncommon on Colorado’s Front Range. The Bulletin identifies three main findings for communities, land managers, and policy makers:

  • National Forests and surrounding lands are dynamic, hazard-prone natural landscapes. This bulletin assists community residents and policy makers in recognizing the risks inherent to people living and recreating in these landscapes.
  • Recovery on National Forests will look different from, and occur on different timescales than, recovery along highways and in communities. The Forest Service is taking a balanced and thoughtful approach to restoring the landscape that is rooted in the Multiple-Use mandate; therefore, recovery includes elements of both rebuilding infrastructure and promoting ecological resilience.
  • It will be important for communities and the Forest Service to continue dialogue over time, communicating about the impacts and effects likely to be felt years into the future, as well as the options we have for reducing future vulnerability to natural disasters.

All Science You Can Use Bulletins are available online at http://1.usa.gov/1lEAKfp.

The special edition, Our Relationship with a Dynamic Landscape: Understanding the 2013 Northern Colorado Flood is available online at http://1.usa.gov/1pXaVVh. For more information about the flood-affected areas and recovery efforts on the National Forest, please visit: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/floodrecovery.

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization - the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12 state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. RMRS research is broken into seven science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups, and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs.


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Media Contacts

Cass Cairns
Public Affairs Officer
Rocky Mountain Research Station
Phone: 970-498-1370

Tammy Williams
Public Affairs Officer
Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests
Phone: 970-295-6693