Input meetings planned for Community Wildfire Protection Plan
Fuels reduction work continues in northern Routt County
Wildfire protection and forest health work will continue locally this fall including an additional 2,200 acres of fuels reduction work approved in northern Routt County, as well as public input meetings set for the update of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Long planned and finally approved through the required federal environmental processes, the North Routt Fuels Reduction Project now is progressing for its first treatments including two timber sales north of Columbine and west of Hahns Peak. The overall project also includes areas west of Steamboat Lake and around Pearl Lake, said Carolina Manriquez, forester for the Colorado State Forest Service in Steamboat Springs.
“This will impact a footprint shaped as an inverted U around Steamboat Lake on U.S. Forest Service adjacent to private lands for fuels reduction and watershed restoration together with wildland-urban interface protection,” Manriquez said. “It’s a mix of service work and timber sales and mostly removing dead and dying trees in that interface.”
The state forest service is under a Good Neighbor Agreement with the federal forest service that allows the state to work on federal lands, she said.
The North Routt Fuels Reduction Project work on the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District is in response to the mountain pine beetle epidemic near areas of private property adjacent to forest land. According to project summary documents, the work “will reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase fire suppression strategy and tactics near private property, increase the resiliency and pace of restoration of national forest system lands, and further the goals and objectives of the Routt National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.”
The fire treatments will create fuel breaks around the private property or wildland-urban interface, commonly called the WUI, in the Steamboat Lake and Hahns Peak area, Manriquez explained. Officials hope to have a vendor hired later this fall, and upcoming work will include mechanical, mastication and hand treatments. Implementation of prescribed burns would primarily be in the fall and spring when fuel and weather conditions are best suited for control.
Manriquez said although limited logging or forest treatment companies exist in the regional market, the state and federal forest service continue to strive to provide wood for two regional mills including Colorado Timber Resources in Parshall and Saratoga Forest Management in Wyoming.
Aaron Voos, U.S. Forest Service public affairs specialist, said the Forest Service currently has seven timber sales sites operating in northern Routt County including salvage projects named Blue Duck, Bootleg, Floyd, Little Red, Silver City, Wapiti and Whiskey Creek.
Officials say the current update of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan is an important step for forest health and wildfire protection in Routt County, and four public input meetings on the protection plan are set for Nov. 14-17.
The plan has not been updated since 2010, and contractor Jensen Hughes, an international fire protection engineering company, was selected in August to oversee the update. The plan will guide wildfire preparedness and long-term mitigation strategies throughout the county. Routt County officials also formed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan steering committee that met on Oct. 4.
Funding for the plan comes from the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County, as well other state mitigation and federal FEMA funds, according to David “Mo” DeMorat, Routt County emergency operations director.
The four public input meetings for the protection plan will be hosted during the evenings of Nov. 14 in Hayden, Nov. 15 at the fire station in Clark, Nov. 16 at the Stagecoach Fire Station and Nov. 17 in Steamboat Springs.
“We need community engagement to define priorities and what is it that people care about as the most valuable resources,” Manriquez said.
According to Routt County’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan webpage the primary goals of the plan update include providing a local ground-truth assessment of values at risk, key vulnerabilities and a wildland-urban interface map, as well as creating an actionable and user-friendly wildfire mitigation and community resilience plan that prioritizes communities determined to be at the most risk of wildfires.
More wildfire preparedness information is also available through the Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Council at RouttWildfire.org.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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