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Contiguous mitigation vital to recovery

On Jan. 7, almost 100 people attended the Black Forest Togetherís fifth symposium held at Edith Wolford Elementary. Scott MacDonald, program director for recovery and restoration, spoke about the Department of Natural Resources grant, which is part of the Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant provided by the state of Colorado. ìThe function of rebuilding and restoring is to look at the recovery aspects for the forest and property owners,î MacDonald said. ìWe will continue helping with recovery for individuals, but we’re taking ‘restore’ to a larger capability.î MacDonald said the DNR grant will help. ìWith the grant, we can look at larger areas of acreage,î he said. ìThe DNR grant is the statement of work we’ve agreed to with the state of Colorado, with a minimum of 125 acres. We have the grant in hand, and it’s fund matching. The state will match 50 percent of our costs.î MacDonald said the vast majority of properties are between 5 and 10 acres and privately owned. ìIt will take a lot of community effort to make this effective. We want a contiguous effect of mitigation,î MacDonald said. ìThe overall effectiveness of mitigation is drastically reduced when done on individual parcels of land.î Part of the goal of Black Forest Together is to link the properties, which has a bigger impact on forest health and habitat for animals, he said. ìThat, in turn, creates a more resilient watershed. It also reduces fire behavior over a larger area,î MacDonald said. ìThe project must meet Colorado State Forestry standards. Itís a matter of cooperation and planning. Meticulous records have to be kept.î The grant stipulates that the state of Colorado match 50 percent of the costs, providing up to $1,000 per acre. MacDonald said they are trying to keep the cost under $2,000 per acre. ìFor people who can’t match a full 50 percent, up to 25 percent can be matched in in-kind work,î MacDonald said. ìWe would like to reserve the in-kind aspect for those who are financially challenged.î In-kind work can include volunteering with the project. Margo Humes, fire marshal for the Falcon Fire Protection District and chief of the Palmer Lake Fire Department, said that Black Forest, in the context of the grant, refers to the ìcontiguous forest, not the topographical area that was burned. We’re referring to the Black Forest within El Paso County.î Humes said the forest extends from Palmer Lake to Falcon and north from Falcon. Cody Poole, firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Black Forest Fire/Rescue Protection District, spoke about the wildland urban interface. ìThe WUI is not natural ó it’s a manmade situation,î he said. ìThe woods are meant to burn down. The problem is we put our homes in the woods. People have become lazy and complacent in mitigation. We are forgetting what it’s like to not have a home to return to. Another fire is coming, and you have a second chance. What are you going to do with your second chance?î Like MacDonald and Humes, Poole said contiguous mitigation is more effective than mitigating individual properties. ìWe need to come together on a grand scale,î he said. ìIt’s like a quilt ó one pretty square is not effective. You need to plan beyond your property boundaries.î Humes encouraged people to meet their neighbors. ìFind out who needs help and help them,î she said. ìMake it safe so firefighters can go out there and do their jobs.î Humes said she decides whether a property is safe enough for her crew. ìIt’s not worth my risking a crew and their lives when I see a driveway like that,î she said, referring to a photograph showing a house that was not visible because of the thick growth of trees. Yet, many properties need to have trees replanted. Sandra Broussard and Bill Mantia are organizing residents who would like to donate trees from their own land to landowners in need of trees. ìWe try to match donors with recipients,î Broussard said. ìPeople will know where their trees are going and where their trees are coming from. I’d like you to consider it, if it speaks to your heart, to donate trees. It doesn’t have to be hundreds, just five or six to a family.îEmail for more information on the grant and the tree donations.

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