‘Oblitermitigation’ of a town gem | SteamboatToday.com

‘Oblitermitigation’ of a town gem

First and foremost, I am in favor of wildfire mitigation. Many Sanctuary Trail users have seen me gathering ground fuels and planting seedlings along the Sanctuary Trail since we purchased our lot in 1997. Sanctuary developer Martin Hart urged my seat on the HOA board in response to my queries about wildfire mitigation in 2006.

With counsel from the U.S. and Colorado forest services, the chief of the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Department and the Routt County emergency manager, I authored the Lower Fish Creek Canyon Wildfire Protection Plan and was later awarded a grant to construct a shaded fire break straddling our trail in the South Ridge Preservation Area to provide access for equipment and personnel should a local fire erupt. Their primary concerns were for human safety and preservation of the city’s water supply.

They stated the obvious that no amount of mitigation would prevent mega-fire events that began in more remote areas. Later, the development commissioned a slide-avalanche assessment by renowned expert Art Judson when considering possible use of federal grant funds to log the South Ridge Preservation Area with 50-meter-wide swaths. Art found 30% to 40% slopes in areas, and the aggressive logging discussion was halted.

Prompted by the 2020 West Coast, Silver Creek, Middle Creek and East Troublesome fires, the three-member Sanctuary board aggressively pushed for a $300,000 mitigation. Unlike the location of those fires, the Sanctuary development is wholly within city limits with a staffed firehouse 2 miles away and receives more precipitation than many county areas.

The ’21 mitigation is nearly completed, and although there has been removal of dangerous ground, bridge and ladder fuels, I and others do not believe the scope and extent significantly reduces our wildfire risk in this development. The emphasis must be the re-invigoration of the 2007 fire break, reduction of dangerous fuels in targeted areas and thinning Gambel oak. We should avoid the indiscriminate removal of healthy conifer, aspen and cottonwood trees that create dangerous wind corridors for further mature tree loss and the extensive removal of ground cover with mastication machinery during peak berry season.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Acknowledging the inherent risks for residing in the mountains, my hope is that neighbors and trail users may awaken to preserving this gem from additional “oblitermitigation” that would make Martin Hart turn over in his grave.

Dave and Linda McIrvin

Steamboat Springs

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