U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited announce new, innovative partnership for post-fire recovery in Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests

8-year, $10 million partnership will restore aquatic systems lost in the two largest wildfires in Colorado history


  • Reid Armstrong, Public Affairs Staff Officer at Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grasslands, katherine.armstrong@usda.gov
  • Nick Gann, Southwest Communications Director at Trout Unlimited, nick.gann@tu.org

(September 19, 2023) – In 2020, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests experienced the two largest wildfires in the history of Colorado (Cameron Peak at approximately 208,000 acres and East Troublesome at approximately 193,000 acres), in addition to the Williams Fork fire (at approximately 14,000 acres). These fires significantly affected hundreds of thousands of acres of watersheds that are of critical importance for domestic, agricultural, and municipal water supplies as well as recreational infrastructure, wildlife habitat, and native vegetation. The East Troublesome fire alone impacted drinking water supplies for over one million people.

To mitigate these impacts and restore these valuable watersheds and recreation sites, the U.S. Forest Service today announced a new $10 million partnership with Trout Unlimited to increase the pace and scale of post-fire recovery projects on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and more quickly restore access to areas impacted by fire.

“The 2020 wildfires continue to cause new damage to our water resources, threaten public safety, and impact access to recreation,” said Monte Williams, Forest Supervisor, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland. “We are looking to design projects that will help stabilize these slopes, enhance streams, recover fisheries, and restore recreation opportunities. Given Trout Unlimited’s track record, they are a natural fit to partner us with on our post-fire recovery goals.”

TU has been working with the Forest Service and other partners for over a decade to implement on-the-ground restoration projects that build climate change resilience into our nation’s watersheds, including resilience to wildfire. Across the National Forest System, the TU-Forest Service partnership has improved nearly 400 miles of important wild fish habitat, removed fish passage barriers to reconnect nearly 700 miles of streams, and helped restore hundreds of thousands of acres.

Those efforts received a big boost last year when TU and the Forest Service entered into a five-year agreement that provides $40 million in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to implement projects on and adjacent to National Forest System lands. These projects include process-based restoration of streams and valleys, replacement of undersized culverts that block fish passage and wash out roads when they fail and abandoned mine reclamation projects to improve water quality.

“As a Coloradoan myself, I am really looking forward to working closely with Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and starting this important post-fire recovery work,” said Drew Peternell, Colorado State Director at Trout Unlimited. “We think it will provide a model for post-fire recovery work in other National Forests and regions across the western United States, in addition to helping restore some of Colorado’s best recreation and fishing opportunities.”

Specifically, the partnership agreement allocates $10 million in post-fire recovery funding roughly evenly between in-stream and riparian habitat restoration, native fish conservation and restoration, and water quality improvement projects on one side; and improvements to Forest Service infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and culverts, on the other. This work will complement long-term Forest Service investments and ongoing collaborative planning with local partners and communities across Colorado’s Front Range to reduce wildfire risk and increase fire resilience.

This work is expected to begin in the summer of 2024, with staff members from both the U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited working closely together to deliver on these goals.

About Trout Unlimited:   

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities.