Coalition for the Upper South Platte

Your donations keep CUSP crews and volunteers on the ground protecting the water quality and ecological health of the South Platte watershed. CUSP leverages contributions as matching funds for grants and on-the-ground work. Your investment is maximized to protect the Upper South Platte watershed.

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General Information

Official Name
Coalition for the Upper South Platte​​​​​​​
DBA/Trade Name(s)
Former Name(s)
Date Established
Offers Additional Colorado State Tax Credit
Tax ID
Headquarters Address
40 Cherokee Ave.
Lake George, CO 80827
Colorado Location
Mailing Address
PO Box 726
Lake George, CO 80827
Other Address
Main Phone Number
Fax Number
Other Phone Number
Social Media Links

Mission Statement

The Coalition for the Upper South Platte seeks to protect the water quality and ecological health of the Upper South Platte Watershed, through the cooperative efforts of watershed stakeholders, with emphasis placed on community values and economic sustainability.



I am intensely proud to be a part of the growth and development of CUSP. This is an organization that has evolved great challenges and demands. From our start in 1998, CUSP has always been responsive and mission-driven.

CUSP has created a new model of watershed protection, that looks at the "big picture" and supports proactive, science-based programs that promote health and resiliency throughout the watershed. By trailblazing innovative resource protection practices and applications, as well as emergency response approaches to fire and flood, CUSP has gained national attention and prominence as an expert in post-fire recovery and ecological restoration.

We work to create a culture of collaboration and partnership with an extensive group of agencies, organizations, and individuals to accomplish goals and tasks that none of us could do alone. These invaluable relationships and projects have helped CUSP become highly successful at receiving and administering grants, helping us to become an effective regional economic force, not just by growing our own staff, but also by providing work to many local contractors and their employees.


The CUSP Board of Directors includes stakeholders in the watershed. Board members include water utilities operating within the Upper South Platte Watershed including, Denver Water, Aurora, Centennial Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, and the following counties: Park, Douglas, Jefferson, and Teller. These entities assign staff or representatives/elected officials to fill the CUSP board positions. Other stakeholder representatives include members from regional conservation and conservancy districts, other natural resource protection nonprofit organizations as well as interested individuals.

CUSP's distinctive board make-up provides many advantages. Members have both a deep and a broad understanding of the many issues and impacts on the watershed. With professional backgrounds in engineering and science, community planning and elected office, finance, and fundraising, board members bring diverse and relevant perspectives to the challenges facing the watershed. From understanding the science behind ecological impacts to political nuances of decisions, the CUSP's board is able to make informed, mission-driven decisions regarding the direction of the organization.

The board does not focus on the day-to-day operations of the organization, but rather on the larger issues and policies of CUSP. These can include but are not limited to, financial decisions related to employee benefits or policies related to succession planning. The board approves the annual budget and professional audit. Most importantly, the board of directors serves as CUSP's ambassadors with their organizations and networks.


" My husband, James Bennett, and I volunteer because we love our beautiful state (CO natives!) and want to keep it that way for our children and future generations. We feel honored and compelled to help restore local areas that have been affected by fire or flood, and CUSP gets out there and makes it happen! We chose you because you make yourselves known (active on Facebook, etc) and you always show love for your volunteers! So thanks and hopefully we'll be seeing you again soon!"

"Volunteering with CUSP has been an educational experience. Every time I volunteer with CUSP I learn something new. The leadership, knowledge, and friendly staff keep me coming back to help out with projects year after year. These guys are the true stewards of the land."

"I had the privilege of volunteering with two groups of students for you all! I brought a group of students to do work on the Hayman Fire burn area in 2007, and another in 2013 on the Waldo Canyon fire on the Flying W Ranch property. It was wonderful to work alongside great CUSP staff, but the best part was educating students about the purpose of restoration efforts. The Waldo Canyon fire was in our back yard (I'm from Colorado Springs), so the work we did was especially meaningful, because we were close to home. Thank you for your willingness to work with a bunch of high school kids and their teacher, but thanks even more for educating the next generation about so many things: restoration, the importance of fire mitigation, what the urban interface means...and helping kids see how they impact and are impacted by all of these!" Sue Knopp

"Had the CUSP crew over to do some fire mitigation, and it was a pleasure to volunteer with a group of professional foresters. They worked like Tasmanian devils to clear and chip an acre of dense scrub oak in a matter of days. Will definitely have them back." Rob Yocom:

Organization History

The Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1998 by a group of watershed stakeholders. Since then, CUSP has worked to protect the 2,600-square-mile watershed that reaches from the Continental Divide, east to Strontia Springs Reservoir, southwest of Denver. It varies in elevation from ~ 6,000 to over 14,000 feet above sea level and contains five major municipal and several smaller reservoirs. The watershed is a recreational mecca with over 1.6 million acres of public land. It is renowned for its "gold-medal" fishing streams and is home to numerous threatened and endangered species.
CUSP has become a go-to expert in all phases of post-fire recovery as well as fuels mitigation fire prevention. CUSP works on forest health, fire rehabilitation, river restoration, and educational programming. CUSP is a nationally recognized and mobilizing force for regional watershed protection and is a successful role model for watershed and natural resource protection organizations.

Today, CUSP has grown and contracts with many local companies on complex and labor-intensive projects throughout the watershed. The organization is a significant fiscal engine for the regional economy, bringing in millions of dollars in federal and state grants annually that support numerous projects throughout Colorado's Front Range. CUSP works with a diverse group of partners including other nonprofits and citizen groups.

CUSP's programs, projects, and initiatives include:

Assessment and monitoring provide both current data and baselines for measuring effectiveness over time. Monitoring includes detailed observation of water quality; forest health; oil and gas exploration impact initiatives; noxious weed invasion: and issues related to potential hazards of abandoned mine sites. State-of-the-art GIS and mapping capabilities further enhance the level of real-time empirical data collection and analysis.

Educational programming takes a whole-system approach to science literacy by offering "Teach the Teacher" training, as well as student-focused experiential learning programs, such as "From Forest to Faucets" and online teaching modules that incorporate service-learning projects.

Forest Health projects and initiatives include Beetle Mitigation, Community Wildfire Protection Plans. Neighborhood Fuels Reduction Projects, and Slash Sites. CUSP also supports its own certified Fire Suppression and Emergency Response team who work cooperatively with regional governments to provide services and volunteer coordination during fire and flood emergencies.

Habitat and Trail Projects encompass maintenance, erosion control, tree planting, or, when necessary, closing trails in an effort to minimize water quality impacts. River restoration projects include the highly innovative "Trees for Trout" program. Burned trees from the Hayman fire have been harvested and used in local waterways to restore habitat and secure riverbanks. Other restoration projects are helping to create unique beaver habitat and addressing impacts of overuse.

CUSP has a vibrant Volunteer Program. For local residents, volunteering for fire restoration projects has had a particularly profound and empowering effect, giving them the opportunity to reclaim and revive their devastated landscape.

The thousands of hours that volunteers work translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars of in-kind labor used as match for federal and state grants.

Key aspects of this profile information have been reviewed by Community First Foundation staff. Each organization is exclusively responsible for the content that appears on the profile page. Community First Foundation offers general guidance as to the purpose of each area but does not require or encourage charities to include anything in particular in each section.