In the centuries since European discovery, settlement, and development of the Western United States, the West’s forests, grasslands, soils, rivers, streams, and wetland areas have been utterly transformed by human activity. Those impacts range from the introduction of cattle and poorly-managed grazing, contributing to the loss of grassland systems; the conversion of wetlands and bottomlands to farmland and for urban development; the damming and diversion of rivers and streams and the pumping of groundwater to support our cities and agriculture; the near-extirpation of beavers from Western watersheds, contributing to ongoing erosion and loss of wet meadow systems; the introduction and spread of invasive species, transforming landscapes and ecological systems; and many other changes.

In the face of the growing ecological, social, and economic challenges of climate change, restoration of grasslands and meadows, streams and riparian areas, wetlands, farmland, and forests is no longer just about enhancing environmental “amenities.” The health of this natural infrastructure is key to the assuring the economic viability of our farms and ranches and the prosperity of rural communities; the protection of our communities and industry from flooding, drought, wildfire, and unprecedented changes in precipitation patterns; and the protection of natural systems and wildlife that provide critical ecosystem services – services that are essential to the continued resilience of human and natural systems.

Our project incubation and consulting arm, CK Blueshift, was created to support the design, development and implementation of innovative approaches to restoration, with expertise in relevant hydrologic, geologic, and geomorphic science. Culp & Kelly’s attorneys have provided legal, policy, and strategic support to advance restoration projects, programs, and initiatives throughout the West.

Representative Experience

  • Providing monitoring, science, and modeling support to stream restoration efforts on private and public lands, and developing detailed monitoring programs, protocols, and related data collection and analysis.
  • Designing, pioneering and implementing a unique approach to the restoration of incised intermittent and ephemeral stream systems, riparian wetlands, and wet meadow habitat on degraded ranch lands through the use of artificial beaver dams and beaver dam analogues.
  • Representing leading nonprofit conservation organizations in a decade-long effort to restore the Colorado River Delta ecosystem and negotiate international agreements to support binational restoration efforts, including Minutes 316, 319, and 323;
  • Working with local NGOs and stakeholders on a strategy to protect and restore flow in the endangered San Pedro River through the development of near-stream recharge;
  • Designing and supporting instream flow transactions and related policy development to support stream and river restoration throughout the Upper Colorado River basin.  
  • Developing a plan for coastal wetlands restoration in Texas in support of an environmental NGO.  
  • Supporting a state trust lands management agency in the design of a proposed mitigation banking program for wetlands restoration in the Southwestern United States.
  • Developing a proposed strategy for binational restoration on the Rio Grande.