April 5, 2023
Fire crews gather at Ute Pass Fire. (Tribal Radio | Sarah Flower)

State funds two projects in La Plata County for Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk

By Sarah Flower

Colorado State Forest Services will award millions of dollars to 23 counties. Some of the money will be in southwest Colo.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will be awarding $15 million in funding for the 2022-2023 Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation grant cycle. Almost half of the state's counties will receive funding for various programs. La Plata County will get nearly half a million dollars for two different projects. Durango Fire Protection District will receive nearly $100K for a new Brush Chipper, and the National Forest Foundation Grassy Mountain Shared Stewardship will receive $405,000.

Ryan Cox is the acting supervisory forester with the Durango office of Colorado State Forest Service. Cox says the Grassy Mountain shared stewardship is in its early stages, but is imperative to the health of the forest in that region.

"It's a shared stewardship, it's a cross-boundary work between the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Forest Service, and the Colorado State Forest Service on obviously pubic and then state land just directly above Forest Lakes community, and so just below Vallecito, the goal is to do some fuels mitigation work up in that area, 262-acres that'll be understory removal, reducing basal area, which is essentially opening up the understory to allow it have fire to burn through there, if that's the case, but just to protect the public lands as well as the private lands in that area, and so it's a cross-boundary collaboration, "

Cox says that with the fire season in the last several years in southwest Colorado, the state recognizes the region's much needed for funding the Wild land Urban interface.

"There's just a lot of attention focused on the area because we are just kind of a high priority of the state, there's the will and the way to protect our resources, whether that be people in communities or wildlife or recreation or water resources "

According to the state, these projects need to have a matching requirement, either in cash or in-kind contribution. The projects awarded in this funding cycle will treat 9,890 acres in forests and communities across Colorado. The Forest Service expects to announce the next round of funding assistance for this grant program in fall 2023.

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