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Aerial mulching aims to restore land burned by Cameron Peak Fire

The focus of the aerial mulching is on protecting the water quality of the rivers and tributaries that flow through the area burned by the Cameron Peak Fire.

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — The impact a wildfire has on the land it burns lasts far longer than the smoke that fills the air. Nearly two years after the Cameron Peak Fire burned more than 200,000 acres in northern Colorado – work continues to restore the rivers that run through the area. 

The easiest way to do that is from the sky.

"The river has seen really immense impacts from the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire," said Hally Strevey, executive director of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed. "The focus is always on the water. That’s really the biggest issue after a fire."

The nonprofit leads the effort to prevent erosion and protect water quality, by dropping mulch from the sky.

"We use a helicopter and we drop this wood mulch from the sky onto areas that we’ve identified as being a high priority for these future debris flows," said Strevey. 

The Poudre River running through Fort Collins first runs through a charred forest.

The river became so polluted last year, that Fort Collins and Greeley couldn’t use the water coming from the river for months. 

"After every rainstorm last year, so basically from July on, the river was black, all the way into town even," said Strevey. 

Flooding upstream in the Black Hollow area left four people dead after a rainstorm – that flash flood happened in the fire's burn scar.

"It was a direct result of the Cameron Peak Fire," said Strevey. "The headwaters of that small watershed were heavily burned."

Using a helicopter for aerial mulching doesn’t come at a cheap price. The groups involved has raised more than $22 million for the effort and they used half of that last year for mulching.

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