NATURAL RESOURCES: FOREST HEALTH AND WATERSHED RESTORATION
In 2020, the forest health crisis that began building nearly 20 years ago intersected with a rapidly intensifying climate crisis and resulted in the worst wildfire year on record. In that single season, more than 665,000 acres burned at a cost of more than $266 million for suppression alone. More than 1,150 homes were destroyed and two lives were lost. As of early 2021, ninety-five percent of Colorado was experiencing some form of drought.
In the coming decades, the changing climate is likely to decrease water availability and agricultural yields in Colorado, and further increase the risk of wildfires. The destabilizing ripple effects could have social and economic impacts that compound the ecological implications. For these reasons, Gates Family Foundation adopted forest health and watershed restoration as a core focus area in its 2021-2026 strategic plan. We invest in projects and organizations that:
- Create collaborative, cross- jurisdictional and statewide strategies to address these issues at scale
- Increase the pace, scale and integration of wildland fire mitigation and water quality efforts
- Improve landscape-scale forest health conditions in priority headwaters and watersheds of Colorado
- Develop creative finance mechanisms to support forest health and watershed restoration