By Teddy Parker-Renga
Colorado State Forest Service
Wildfires are both natural and inevitable — including in wildland-urban interface (WUI) settings where millions of Coloradans live. These fires can be particularly destructive in areas where forests are unhealthy, unmanaged and unnaturally dense.
For those interested in taking action, but who have lacked the means, funding is now available to help address this risk.
The Colorado State Forest Service announced that it is accepting proposals from Colorado HOAs, community groups, local governments, fire protection districts, utilities and nonprofit organizations seeking funding to improve forest health, conduct forest restoration and reduce wildfire risk on nonfederal land in the state. Approximately $700,000 in total funding is available and grant awards are available up to $250,000.
The Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program helps fund projects that strategically reduce the potential wildfire risk to property, infrastructure and water supplies and that promote forest health through scientifically based forestry practices.
The competitive grant program is designed to reduce risk to people and property in the WUI and support long-term ecological restoration. Applications must not only promote forest health and address the reduction of hazardous fuels that could fuel a wildfire — such as trees and brush near homes — but also utilize wood products derived from forest management efforts.
The state can fund up to 50 or 75 percent of the cost of each awarded project; grant recipients are required to match at least 25 or 50 percent of the total project cost through cash or in-kind contributions depending on whether the project location falls within an area of “fewer economic resources.”
Projects can be located on private, state, county or municipal forestlands. Program funds also are allowable to fund the purchase of equipment that directly supports and expands on-the-ground opportunities to reduce hazardous fuels. Program funds may be used for forest restoration, but are not part of post-fire rehabilitation activities.
Applicants must coordinate proposed projects with relevant county officials to ensure consistency with county-level wildfire risk reduction planning. Follow-up monitoring also is a necessary component of this grant program to help demonstrate the relative efficacy of various treatments and the utility of grant resources. The CSFS will work with successful project applicants to conduct project monitoring and conduct site visits to assess effectiveness and completion of projects.
Additional emphasis will be given to projects that: are identified through a community-based collaborative process, such as a Community Wildfire Protection Plan; are implemented strategically across land ownership boundaries; are conducted within a priority area identified in the 2020 Colorado Forest Action Plan; utilize the labor of an accredited Colorado Youth or Veterans Corps organization; and include forest treatments that result in the protection of water supplies.
Applications must be submitted electronically to local CSFS Field Offices by 5 p.m. on Dec. 11. A technical advisory panel convened by the CSFS will review project applications and make funding recommendations. The CSFS will then notify successful applicants next spring.
Applications and additional information about the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program are available at CSFS Field Offices and online at csfs.colostate.edu/funding-assistance.