Mushrooms are healing the earth, starting with Colorado’s forests |

Mushrooms are healing the earth, starting with Colorado’s forests

Sarah Kuta, Special to The Denver Post
Volunteer Tammi Renninger places flags in a large pile of industrial waste wood chips to mark where wood rotting mushrooms will be buried as part of the largest fungal degradation effort for environmental restoration in the U.S. at the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms in Littleton, June 5, 2020.
Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Denver Post

Can mushrooms help save our Colorado forests? Jeff Ravage knowsthey can.

Ravage is a big fan of mushrooms. He’s also the North Fork watershed coordinator for the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, an organization that has been working to protect the ecological health and water quality of the 1.6 million-acre watershed southwest of Denver since 1998.

In early June, Ravage and a team of volunteers inoculated a massive pile of wood chips at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms with mushroom spawn. The goal? To highlight how quickly and efficiently fungi can convert a pile of waste and debris into beneficial compost, using completely natural processes.

Ravage’s team has spent the last six years experimenting with and proving out this concept. Now, they want to demonstrate that this fungal degradation process works on an industrial scale in the hopes that foresters and land managers across the country — and even private companies — begin to replicate it.

“The goal is to create enough information to allow people to do this with their local mushrooms where they’re at,” Ravage said. “It could be done by people who run sawmills who have to deal with waste. It could be done by municipal waste management, who end up with a lot of tree trimmings from residents. It can definitely be done by forest managers.”

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