‘Cultivating Connections’ theme of Poudre River Forum

The Cache La Poudre River, which flows from the mountains west of Fort Collins through Timnath and Windsor to the plains east of Greeley, is at the heart of countless activities: from irrigating crops and lawns to providing drinking water for more than 365,000 people to hosting numerous recreational sports. Those with connections to the Poudre will be gathering in early February for the Third Annual Poudre River Forum. This year’s forum – “Cultivating Connections for a Healthy, Working River” – will be held 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5 at The Ranch Events Complex, 5280 Arena Circle Dr., Loveland. Pre-registration is required for all participants.

Understanding the river, each other

Water Picture 4

Sponsored by the Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group (PRTI), the forum serves as a community-wide gathering of people from agricultural, municipal, business, recreational and environmental backgrounds to discuss the importance of the Poudre River. “While we represent many different perspectives, our PRTI group is committed to making the Poudre the world’s best example of a healthy, working river,” said MaryLou Smith, PRTI policy and collaboration specialist. “And it is going to take collective vision and action to make this a reality.”

Once again, this year’s event will be facilitated by the Colorado Water Institute (CWI) at Colorado State University. “The forum is a great opportunity for the communities connected by the Poudre River to come together to better understand the river and each other,” said Reagan Waskom, director of CWI.

Ag operators along the Poudre

The morning program will focus on the “Nexus of Agriculture and the Poudre River: Current Realities and Planning for the Future” and will feature panelists representing a variety of agricultural operations and expertise. They will discuss their reliance on Poudre River water, their planning for the future given a growing demand for this limited resource, and how the dynamics of this vital economic sector affect their relationship with the river.

“There exist thousands of acres and countless industries that rely on the forage and food output fueled by the Poudre River,” said Brad Wind of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “This is an opportunity to hear directly from producers of all sizes.”

Cooperation on Little Snake River

Pat O'Toole
Pat O’Toole

The keynote speaker will be Pat O’Toole, who will share “An Inspiring Story of Agricultural/Environmental Cooperation on Wyoming’s Little Snake River.” O’Toole is a rancher and farmer of a six-generation family operation – Ladder Livestock – on the Little Snake River along the Wyoming-Colorado border. He is president of the Family Farm Alliance, which represents irrigators in 17 Western states; was a Kellogg LEAD fellow; and served in the Wyoming House of Representatives and on the Western Water Policy Commission. O’Toole also serves on the board of directors for the Intermountain Joint Venture, a public/private group that advocates for migratory birds, and on the boards of Partners for Conservation, Farm Foundation, and Solutions from the Land.


Big water projects

In the afternoon, a second panel of diverse voices addresses the “Challenges of Pursuing Water Projects and Initiatives: Key Ingredients and Lessons for Success”. They will explore what it takes to get to “yes” under challenging circumstances, and often with diametrically opposed views.

“The panelists will describe some of the most complex water related projects in the state and how they managed to overcome tremendous obstacles to achieve successful outcomes,” said John Stokes, City of Fort Collins Natural Areas and Poudre River Sustainability director. “Their stories and experiences are likely to be helpful and instructive as we face our own challenges on the Poudre.”

Stokes said examples include the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, and the Windy Gap Firming Project.

Videos, displays and music too

The day-long forum also includes educational videos from Poudre Heritage Alliance and Colorado Corn, and over two dozen river-focused displays from community organizations and agencies. The day concludes with a social hour including food, beer and beverages, door prizes, and bluegrass music by Blue Grama.

Registration is $50 and includes lunch and reception. Scholarships for students and reduced rates are available. The deadline to register is Thursday, Jan. 28.