State grant money available to reduce wildfire threat | SteamboatToday.com

State grant money available to reduce wildfire threat

A truck sits among the ruins Friday at the 2016 Beaver Creek Fire.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The wildfire season might be coming to an end in Northwest Colorado, but state officials want homeowners to begin planning for future years.

Even the urban areas throughout Steamboat Springs are threatened by wildfire, and smoke from fires this summer, which brought smoke into the Yampa Valley, served as a constant reminder.

Steamboat Springs district forester John Twitchell with the Colorado State Forest Service said a lot of work has been done as a result of the mountain pine beetle epidemic that ravaged the lodgepole pine tree population, but there is still much more that can be done.

The State Forest Service recently announced a new round of grants that will help pay for projects identified by homeowners associations, community groups, governments, utilities and nonprofit organizations that want to restore forested areas, improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk on non-federal land in the state.

There is about $1 million available for next year through the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program, and detailed information about the program is available at csfs.colostate.edu/funding-assistance/.

It is a matching grant program with property owners required to pay for at least half of the project cost.

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That grant program helps encourage residents to create defensible space around their properties to reduce the risk from wildfires.

"That's really where there is a lot of work is around their homes," Twitchell said.

At a minimum, the State Forest Service recommends removing flammable material such as trees and brush that are 15 feet from a home.

Residents and property owners in recent years have taken advantage of grant dollars to clean up their properties.

North Routt County was hit hard by the pine beetle epidemic, which littered the landscape with dead trees and red needles.

The Willow Creek subdivision used funds to treat their common area and worked with federal agencies to reduce risk from wildfires at adjacent property.

In the city of Steamboat area, grant money was used to do considerable work at Emerald Mountain and other land managed by the city, private property owners and Steamboat Ski Area.

The U.S. Forest Service has an extensive project called the Steamboat Front that is designed to reduce fuels, improve watershed and improve wildlife habitat.

In South Routt County, the Oak Creek Fire Protection District has worked closely with Stagecoach homeowners to remove dead trees and create defensible space.

"It is so critical that people remember that we live in an ecosystem that experiences periodic wildfire, as the past two summers have so dramatically illustrated," Twitchell said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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