Natural Resources: Forest Health and Watershed Restoration - Gates Family Foundation


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 in addition to the ecological implications. These conditions have persisted for so long that it is now characterized as a permanently shifted baseline resulting in a new normal that is drier and warmer.

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 for 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

Our 2022-2026 Strategic Plan: Our Team Shares the Highlights

During a series of six webinars in February and March 2022, our team shared the broad strokes of our 2022-2026 strategic plan: what’s new and what’s unchanged, and how — by working together — we can make a positive impact on the most important issues facing our state.

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Whitney Johnson

Whitney Johnson

Senior Program Officer – Natural Resources
Amanda Hill

Amanda Hill

Program Officer – Natural Resources