- Client: City of Fort Collins Utilities, Larimer County
- Date: February, 2021 – September, 2021
- Project Type: Rangeland management, noxious weed management, comprehensive management planning
- Info: The City of Ft. Collins Utilities hired Blue Mountain Environmental in the spring of 2021 to evaluate rangeland conditions at Meadow Springs Ranch and to provide guidance for subsequent comprehensive management planning. Our process included GIS services, rangeland forage evaluations, a literature review, key informant interviews, data collection, team collaboration and production of a report.
Meadow Springs Ranch, located north of Fort Collins in Larimer and Weld counties is an approximately 28,000-acre working ranch owned and managed by City of Fort Collins Utilities for the application of municipal biosolids. According to the City of Ft. Collins Utilities, “Biosolids are a nutrient-rich organic material created from the biological and physical treatment of wastewater. They are the removed solids from the wastewater treatment process, which meet strict state and federal standards for organics, metals and pathogen removal. Biosolids can be used to improve soil structure and water retention and also are used as a slow-release fertilizer.
“Ten to 12 semi-trailer loads of biosolids are trucked from the Drake Water Reclamation Facility to Meadow Springs Ranch each week. One hundred percent of Fort Collins Utilities biosolids are applied on the ranch.”
The ranch is divided into 35 separate pastures and grazed between May and October each year per the terms of a grazing lease between the City of Fort Collins and a local grazing association.
An existing Geographic Information System database illustrating ranch infrastructure and biosolid application areas was updated with NRCS Ecological Range Sites to guide subsequent rangeland sampling.
The Rapid Assessment Methodology for Proactive Rangeland Management by Allison et al. (2007) was employed to rangeland production, composition, condition and trend because it was designed to quickly and objectively assess range condition to provide quantitative data for management decisions.
Our literature review collected publications pertaining to biosolids application in relation to soil microbial activity, metal content of biosolids, nutrient cycling, water quality and vegetative composition responses. Interviews with city staff, university professors and EPA representatives revealed the importance of nitrogen turnover within soils while data collection efforts collated existing information. A collaborative process brought stakeholders and City staff together to discuss current needs and management direction.