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Black Forest Together has contributed $1 million in three years

Since its inception in 2014, Black Forest Together has accrued thousands of hours of volunteer time and completed hundreds of projects in the effort to help Black Forest and its people ìrecover, rebuild and restore their lives,î according to the mission statement.Following the 2013 Black Forest Fire, which burned more than 14,000 acres of land ó Coloradoís most destructive wildfire in history ó volunteers saw the need to address the devastation, and they established the organization.Each year, BFT publishes an annual report describing its efforts to fulfill its mission.The overview of BFTís 2016 Annual Report states the organization completed 72 ìvolunteer-based recovery/restorationî projects and logged 4,000 volunteer hours last year.Since 2014, BFT has completed 250 projects and contributed 40,000 volunteer hours, equaling about $1 million in in-kind contributions to Black Forest, according to the report.The organization continues its restoration and prevention projects in 2017, and is set to contribute 8,500 seedlings to areas destroyed in the fire, said Ken Clark, Black Forest Together director.ìWe will start registering families (for a seedling donation) in April,î said Clark, who joined the organization in 2014.The 2016 report states, ìBlack Forest Together is the only organization in El Paso County still providing forest recovery and restoration assistance to Black Forest residents impacted by the Black Forest Fire.îAlso, BFTís Forest Recovery & Resiliency Program focuses on home and neighborhood projects, community education and outreach.The program has six focus areas: ìforest recovery and reforestation; erosion control to mitigate flash flooding and protect watershed safety; reduction of fuels to prevent another catastrophic forest fire; transplanting live trees from a healthy forest that is being mitigated to burned forest land that requires restoration; the Black Forest Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update Project; and community education in best practices in forest health and a shift to a shared responsibility model between municipalities, private industry and residents to create a fire-adapted, resilient community.îClark said, ìWe do everything from chipping projects to fence rebuilding, but we figured out that cleaning up is expensive, so we also focus on preventative measures,î including fire mitigation.ìWeíve mitigated about 300 acres of land so far,î Clark said. ìWe just completed a 25-acre shaded fuel break along Shoup Road.îShaded fuel breaks mitigate wildfire threats in areas where natural fires have been suppressed, leading to a buildup of combustible vegetation.ìWe also do tree donations, so if some people have smaller trees on their property that they donít want there, we will spade those up and give them away to other residents who want to restore their land,î Clark said.Since BFTís inception, 275 trees have been donated and transplanted through its tree donor program; 250 trees are waiting to be donated; 50 acres of land has been reforested; the survival rate of trees is 90 percent; and $25,000 to $30,000 has been saved by transplanting trees instead of residents purchasing those same trees, according to the annual report.In 2016, 117 trees were donated to six homeowners.The report states that ìall BFT 2016 programs were made possible through generous donations from local foundations, individuals and state/federal grants.îThe 2017 seedling donation program will provide seedlings to 200 area families, made possible thanks to donations from the U.S. Forest Service, the Arbor Day Foundation and AC Golden Brewing Co., Clark said.Families who would like to register for the seedling program can visit the BFT website,, for more information.

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