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356C66F90BA3D6638725844200533E26 Hearing Summary


Date Jul 25, 2019      
Location HCR 0112

Colorado State Forest Service - Committee Discussion Only

09:09:15 AM  

Mike Lester, Colorado State Forest Service, spoke about the work of the agency and distributed an informational packet to the committee (Attachment B).  The Forest Service is part of Colorado State University, headquartered in Fort Collins.  The forest service acts as a steward for the forests in Colorado.  Mr. Lestor discussed the agencies funding is as follows: federal grants (32 percent), state general fund and grants (27 percent), self funded (23 percent), and severance taxes (18 percent). 

He addressed the importance of forests and forest health.  He stated that seventy-two percent of residents participate in outdoor recreation and that forest health contributes to tourism and jobs, as well as water quality.

09:14:19 AM  

Mr. Lester addressed challenges and opportunities for the agency.  He mentioned that last year more acres burned than in any other year, except 2002 and that forty million dollars was spent on fire suppression during the last fire season. 

About three million people live in wildland urban interface (WUI) areas.  In fact, the WUI is close to 25 percent developed, so proactive wildfire mitigation is important.  This year, the agency is spending one million dollars in grant funding for forest health.  Mr. Lester stated that on average, every dollar spent on mitigation saves three dollars on fire suppression.

Mr. Lester talked about CO-WRAP, a web-based map tool that allows users to assess wildfire risks.  The tool has many layers in the map, including the likelihood for an area to burn, intensity of fires, as well as historic fire information.  CO-WRAP provides an interface between the public and planning officials and assists with community planning efforts. 

He discussed the opportunity to provide a predictable funding source for fire suppression and mitigation efforts, as the current funding structure is highly variable.  The agency receives a variety of grant funding, including restoration grants through severance taxes and mitigation grants through the Department of Natural Resources.  There are typically more grant applications than funds available. 

He also mentioned that the agency is facing capacity constraints, growing wildfire risks, and treating acres is expensive in the front range.  Twenty four million forested acres with a high risk of fire exist in the front range.

09:25:21 AM  

Mr. Lester discussed the forest action plan, a 10-year-plan required by the federal government.  Every state completes this process to look at needs and how to address them.  The agency is currently working on the 2020 plan, due June 2020.  Draft reviews will take place in mid-August this year.  The forest service will seek feedback around the state.

09:26:37 AM  

Mr. Lester discussed that shared stewardship is important to the Forest Service.  The agency is planning with federal partners, looking at resources, protecting the forest, and focusing on areas that make the biggest impact.  Other recent partnerships include the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. 

09:28:44 AM  

There was discussion about California and the similarities with regards to conditions, such as landscape, weather, and the WUI.

09:31:27 AM  

Mr. Lester will provide a map of the wildland urban interface, as there were questions about the accuracy of population figures.  He will also provide a breakdown of actual costs spent on fire to address questions about the net amount of state spending or the amount that Colorado spent that the federal government will reimburse. 

09:33:24 AM  

Mr. Lester responded to questions about river bed management and grazing to manage areas with dead grass.  The forest health advisory council addresses grazing.  He mentioned that vegetation health is important to keeping the soil in place.  There were additional questions about state agencies that may supervise the maintenance of rivers, including the buildup of silt,  as well as mitigation that stops a fire at a particular area or line.

09:38:40 AM  

Mr. Lester responded to questions about beetle kill.  He mentioned that the mountain pine beetle activity is tapering off.  However, spruce beetles are taking off, with 5.4 million acres impacted over the last five years.  The issue is the unpredictable way the dead trees burn and the agency is working on solutions through better forest management.

09:43:05 AM  

Mr. Lester responded to questions about forest management, discussing how agencies are working on overcrowded conditions.  He discussed how prescribed fire may be helpful, however, it is tough to use prescribed burns in dense conditions.  

09:45:11 AM  

The discussion turned to collaboration and partnerships with land owners and government.  Mr. Lester indicated that the Forest Service works with local governments to build relationships.  In fact, county commissioners serve on several committees, including forest health and fire prevention and control. 

09:48:46 AM  

Mr. Lester indicated that landowners are always part of the collaboration as well.  However, limited staff makes outreach efforts challenging.  The Forest Service typically works with homeowner and landowner associations, rather than individuals.  There is a page on the Forest Service website devoted to individual landowners, including defensive space and forest health.

09:53:14 AM  

Drinking water and the Good Neighbor Agreement were discussed.  There are currently 12 Forest Service projects involving the Good Neighbor Agreement.  This legal mechanism assists with completion of projects on private, local, state, and federal lands by allowing the U.S. Forest Service to enter into agreements with state forest service agencies to manage the forest. 

09:55:18 AM  

Discussion continued regarding funding for wildfires on prairies.  Mr. Lester indicated that the Forest Service does not do a lot of work on prairie lands.

09:55:59 AM  

Coordinated responses between the federal, state, and local governments were discussed. There is some frustration in coordinating efforts to fight active fire.  The Forest Service focuses on mitigation and fuel reduction.  The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control focuses on fire management.

09:57:36 AM  

Mr. Lester responded to a question about actions to put the Forest Service in a better position for fire mitigation.  Grant program funds are helpful.  However, the variance in severance money makes management difficult.  In addition, a healthy forest service products industry would be helpful.  In other states funds are received from landowners for mitigation.  In Colorado, the Forest Service is billed for mitigation work.  

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