Restoring America's Headwaters


"The connection between forests and rivers is like that between father and son. No forest, no rivers."

- Gifford Pinchot, first Forest Service Chief

Our Forests, Our Water

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A stream on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest

As the largest single supplier of water in the nation, our National Forests and Grasslands are truly the headwaters of America. These lands provide reliable water supplies for more than 123 million Americans in nearly 1,000 U.S. cities.

Forests act like a giant sponge as snowpack melts in the spring-providing a natural cleansing filter, replenishing underground aquifers, and regulating runoff to prevent floods and erosion and to ensure water flows during the later seasons of the year. Trees and other forest vegetation along streams provide shade to cool the water for native fish, as well as protective cover for nesting habitat for riparian wildlife.

In recent years, watersheds on our National Forests and Grasslands have become increasingly threatened by climate change, severe wildfires, increasing development, and an aging forest road system. To address these critical restoration needs, the (NFF) is working to engage Americans to enhance and protect our most valuable natural resource - clean and reliable water supplies.

Read more about our Watershed Restoration Objectives and Results and our Current Watershed Restoration Initiatives. For more information on our watershed restoration activities, please contact Wes Swaffar at or (406) 830-3356.

Case Study: Restoring the Upper South Platte Watershed

In 2002, the Hayman Fire raged through the Pike National Forest, burning nearly 138,000 acres. In its wake, the fire jeopardized habitat for numerous sensitive species and severely impacted the water source for more than 75% of Colorado residents. Sub-basins are still producing an inordinate amount of sediment into Denver's water supply, and the NFF is working to restore these critical sub-basins within the Upper South Platte Watershed. Restoration strategies include riparian restoration, enhancement and relocation of trails, reforestation, noxious weed control, native plant and wildlife habitat restoration, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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Excessive sedimentation following the Hayman Fire

In June of 2012 the NFF recognized the three-year restoration partnership that brought $4 million to plant trees, restore critical watersheds, reseed thousands of acres and put youth to work on the landscape. Read more.

Support for this project came from corporations and foundations such as:

o Vail Resorts
o The Coca Cola Company
o Aurora Water
o The Gates Family Foundation