Piloting Ecosystem Services in Northern Colorado
New Belgium contributed to two pilot projects in Northern Colorado to test the viability of a payment for ecosystem services concept. The idea is that farmers and ranchers receive payments to improve the environment, in this case, cleaner water flows, from other users of watershed resources who benefit from the environmental service. The name for this initiative is the Colorado Conservation Exchange.
In one pilot, the Sylvan Dale Ranch monitored the nutrient runoff from its cattle pens for more than a year to establish baseline data for how much nitrogen, phosphorous and organic matter flow into the Big Thompson River. Now the project is at the midway point. The cattle pen drainage system is being changed, and the cattle herd, due to a change in the calving and weaning seasons, is spending far less time in confinement, so the manure doesn’t build up so much. During the coming year, the ranch will continue to measure the water runoff to see if the changes make a difference.
The other pilot, on Roberts Ranch, is designed to reduce the loss of soil off the ranch and to reduce its impact on water quality both immediately on the ranch and also downstream where it impacts aquatic habitat, agricultural operations, and recreational opportunities. Water quality monitoring stations have measured the loss of sediment and determined where to implement restoration. Erosion control structures have been tested for effectiveness and installed starting in the highest priority locations, and a reservoir has been redesigned to redirect water flow, thereby reducing erosion rates and creating new wildlife habitat.