Wildfire Mitigation Incentives For Local Governments
The act establishes the wildfire mitigation incentives for local government grant program (grant program) in the Colorado state forest service (forest service). The grant program is established to provide state funding assistance in the form of grant awards to local governments to either match revenue raised by such governments from a dedicated revenue source or to expand existing programs administered by the local government on a long-term basis, which efforts are intended to be used for forest management or wildfire mitigation efforts at the local level. Such wildfire mitigation efforts include, without limitation, projects that promote fuel breaks, forest thinning, a reduction in the amount or extent of fuels contributing to wildfires, outreach and education efforts directed at property owners and other members of the public, and any other means of forest management or wildfire mitigation as determined appropriate for funding by the forest service.
On or before March 1, 2023, the forest service is required to adopt polices, procedures, and guidelines for the grant program that include, without limitation:
- Procedures and timelines by which an eligible recipient may apply for a grant;
- Criteria for determining grant eligibility and grant amounts; and
- Reporting requirements for grant recipients.
Any funding awarded under the grant program must match either revenues raised by the local government from a dedicated revenue source or supplement existing programs administered by the local government on a long-term basis, which efforts are intended to be used for forest management or wildfire mitigation efforts at the local level in accordance with policies, procedures, and guidelines developed by the forest service.
A local government is eligible for funding under the grant program even in the absence of a dedicated revenue source if the local government has created and administers an existing program, project, or funding mechanism that creates long-term funding at the local level for wildfire mitigation or forest health or has created and administers other creative and innovative approaches for promoting wildfire mitigation and forest health.
In allocating funding under the grant program, preference must be given to certain eligible recipients based on prioritization factors enumerated in the act.
Eligible recipients may apply for funding from the grant program, and the recipient's application for funding may be approved by the forest service before the local government has created a dedicated revenue source that forms the basis for the match if the electors of the local government approve a ballot issue creating the revenue source at an election that takes place in the same calendar year in which the funding is awarded.
The act creates the wildfire mitigation incentives local government grant program fund (fund) in the state treasury. On July 1, 2022, the state treasurer is required to transfer $10 million from the general fund to the fund. The forest service is to use the money transferred to fund awards under the grant program and pay the administrative costs of the forest service in administering the grant program.
On or before November 1, 2024, and on or before November 1 of each year thereafter, the forest service is required to publish a report summarizing the use of all of the money that was awarded under the grant program in the preceding fiscal year. The act specifies additional required components of the report. The report must be posted on the website of the forest service. The act requires the Colorado department of higher education to summarize the information contained in the report in its "State Measurement for Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent (SMART) Government Act" hearings.
The act requires the forest service to prepare educational materials concerning the grant program and to display such materials on its official website. The forest service is also required to undertake outreach activities to inform local governments located in priority areas for wildfire mitigation of the grant program.
The grant program is repealed, effective September 1, 2027. Before its repeal, the department of regulatory agencies is required to review the grant program as part of the general assembly's review of regulatory agencies and functions for repeal, continuation, or reestablishment.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)