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History of the LFVC

Lake Fork Valley Conservancy was created in December 2009

with the merging of two groups: The Lake Fork Land Trust and the Lake Fork Watershed Stakeholders. 
As such, most of the history of the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy is really the history of these organizations.


Lake Fork Land Trust

The Lake Fork Land Trust was started in November of 1998.  They started fundraising and became a one-project organization, focused on trying to conserve wetland property at the south end of Lake San Cristobal.  Unfortunately, the project was held up due to a variety of factors, and the Lake Fork Land Trust was effectively defunct until 2008, when discussions began regarding a possible merger with the Lake Fork Watershed Stakeholders. 

Also in 2008, the Lake Fork Land Trust formed a whole new board of directors, and in 2009 the new board decided to change the name of the organization to the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy, and cease to function as a land trust.

Lake Fork Watershed Stakeholders

The Lake Fork Watershed Stakeholders group was formed in January 2002 in response to increased concern about heavy metal loading in the upper Henson Creek watershed.  The old Lake Fork Watershed Stakeholders group acts today as an advisory body to the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy’s board of directors.  Because the Lake Fork Land Trust was a mostly inactive organization for most of its history, the history of the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy before December of 2009 is essentially an overview of the activities of the Lake Fork Watershed Stakeholders.

A Legacy of Stewardship


  • Grants & Contributions.  Since 2003, the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy has been awarded more than $1 million from government and private entities. We have also received contributions of over 3,500 hours of volunteer time toward these ends. 

  • Educational Programs.  Throughout its history, the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy has served as a valuable forum for interaction amongst state and federal, non-profits, and the public.  We have conducted numerous public information events, with such topics as water quality, mine permitting, cadmium impacts on ptarmigan, taxpayers’ opportunity to donate to the Healthy Rivers Fund, mining history, local geography, and river restoration for improved trout habitat.  Over 200 citizens have benefited from these educational programs.

  • Outreach.  In addition, our outreach efforts through the local paper have reached an audience of over 1,500.  There are many potential educational issues that fall under the purview of a watershed approach to understanding land, and the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy will tackle different issues as they become relevant.

  • Watershed Research Bibliography.  Regarding watershed characterization, the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy has compiled a bibliography of research on the watershed, including areas of critical biological habitat.  Using the expertise of the geologists, mining reclamation specialists, and hydrologists in our conservancy group, major synoptic sampling efforts were conducted in 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010 to assess water quality in the Lake Fork watershed, particularly those areas that are most impacted from historic mining, including the first ever characterization of Lake San Cristobal.

  • Henson Creek Water Quality & Cleanup.  Henson Creek water quality data and mine waste data from selected mine sites were used to write a reclamation feasibility report, which outlined and ranked the most important mine sites for reclamation and recommended Best Management Practices.  To date, three sites have been targeted for restoration with construction activities having started in 2007.  With the help of our conservancy, a successful abandoned mine cleanup project was completed in 2009 at the Ute-Ulay Mine located along Henson Creek, and two successful volunteer tree planting events took place on that same site in the spring and fall of 2010.

  • Palmetto Gulch TMDL Assessments.  The Lake Fork Valley Conservancy has also worked to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for Palmetto Gulch, a tributary to Henson Creek, which was listed as water quality impaired on Colorado’s 303(d) in 2002 due to high levels of zinc and cadmium.  A TMDL was also completed for the mainstem of Henson, which was listed in 2008 for zinc and cadmium.  The purpose of the TMDL assessments was to identify reductions in cadmium and zinc concentrations from mining sources that will enable the segment to support aquatic life and to meet the adopted water quality standards, in compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act. 

  • River Enhancement Project Feasibility Studies.  The Lake Fork Valley Conservancy received grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado’s Non-Point Source (NPS-319) program, to conduct feasibility studies for a river enhancement project through the Town of Lake City.  The purpose of such a project would be to enhance fisheries and improve the physical condition of the river in terms of bank stability and bed load reduction over a ten-year timeframe.  This feasibility phase includes a participatory planning process where any project design will be first shaped by the physical nature of the river itself, then by the wishes of our community. 

  • Hough Mine Remediation Assessment.  In addition NPS-319 funding has been used to complete assessment and remediation design for the Hough Mine, the largest contributor of heavy metals in Henson Creek.  Currently we are seeking funding to implement remediation on this top-priority site.   Assessment of other mine sites in the watershed is an ongoing process.

  • Conservation Easements.  The Lake Fork Valley Conservancy is currently working side by side with numerous land owners within our watershed whose private property has the potential to be placed under conservation easement.  A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a land owner and qualified organization (most notably, a land trust) that restricts future activities on the land to protect its conservation values.  Our group serves as an aid during these interactions and helps to create the connection between land owners and land trusts once we establish their common interests.

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