Summary by Katie McGrath Novak, Colorado Forest Health Council Member serving as “an individual employed by or associated with a forest collaborative organization”
This document summarizes points from the meeting that I believe are most relevant to Colorado’s place-based forest collaboratives. It is an interpretation of discussions from the meeting, but is not an official Forest Health Council document.
Note: Your stories and ideas will help me better represent the voices and needs of Colorado’s forest collaboratives, and share your stories with the Colorado Forest Health Council and beyond.
- Full Video (see notes below for timestamps of each section)
- Meeting Minutes: Not yet available, but will be posted here within a few weeks
- In case you missed it: The Colorado Forest Health Council 2022 Annual Report
Forest Health Council 2023 Priorities Survey Results (Watch: 19:30-29:33)
Speaker: Courtney Young, Wildfire Mitigation Program Facilitator, DNR
In late 2022, members of the Forest Health Council were asked to complete a survey ranking their priorities for the Council in 2023. Here were the top six priorities:
- Landscape-scale State Priorities
- Note: This is a statutory duty of the Council. ‘Landscape-scale planning to identify state-level priorities for forest restoration, wildfire risk reduction, and related management; key barriers inhibiting the achievement of those priorities; and solutions to overcome those barriers (specifically, education on current mapping tools and opportunities for use/improvement)’
- Forest management techniques to support water resources
- Maximizing success of IIJA/IRA implementation and coordination
- Forest health & climate
- Note: This is a statutory duty of the Council. ‘Monitoring trends related to forest ecosystem health, including those related to climate adaptation, and advising on opportunities for state-level action (specifically, post-fire restoration, forest regeneration and replanting)’
- Develop proposals for clearer public communication channels to highlight progress and opportunities for participation
- Woody biomass
- Note: This is a statutory duty of the Council. ‘Development and support of solutions to manage and utilize woody material produced by mitigation work, including consideration of climate change and ecological impacts’
Want to learn more about the Council’s statutory mandate? Click here to read SB21-237, the legislation that established the Colorado Forest Health Council.
Discussion amongst the Council:
There was some debate about how much focus the Council should put on federal resources. Some members noted that, while federal opportunities are important, the Council is a state body and should maintain a focus on state resources. Others noted that state resources can provide powerful leverage and amplification when aligned with federal investments and maximizing IIJA/IRA implementation could go hand-in-hand with landscape-scale state prioritization.
Updates from the Fire Commission (Watch: 30:30-101:58)
Speaker: Mike Morgan, Director, Department of Fire Prevention and Control
Director Morgan began by contextualizing the history of the Department of Fire Prevention and Control and the Colorado Fire Commission. He said that the agency is guided by a document called the “Five Point Plan for a Safer Colorado,” which arose after the South Canyon Fire of 1994 took 14 lives. Later, the 2012 Lower North Fork Fire (a prescribed fire that escaped, burning over 4,000 acres and taking the lives of three people) became a “tipping point,” leading to major statewide organizational changes between 2012 and 2016 (these changes notably included transferring prescribed fire out of the Colorado State Forest Service’s jurisdiction).
Director Morgan emphasized the value of life and property, noting that wildfire is a public safety issue as much as a natural resources issue. Suppression and mitigation are not mutually exclusive, and we need both. He wondered, how can we protect lives and property before, during, and after wildfires?
“The Colorado Fire Commission was established in 2019 when the Colorado General Assembly recognized the importance of having a dedicated, stakeholder-driven group to address the challenges faced by Colorado’s fire service. … The Commission is working from many angles to ensure a holistic approach to managing fire and its consequences. Since the last annual report, the Commission has worked not only on wildland fire issues but also on addressing high-risk hazards, data and fire investigations, the coordination of fire-based resources, and ensuring a well-trained and properly equipped fire service.”
He outlined subcommittees within the Colorado Fire Commission:
- Retention & Recruitment subcommittee
- Delegation of Duty & Forms subcommittee
- Wildland Urban Interface subcommittee: This committee’s purpose is “to address the significant risk to more than 50% of Colorado’s population who reside in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).”
- Prescribed Fire subcommittee: This subcommittee’s purpose is “to better prepare Colorado’s fire service and communities for prescribed fire and to develop a stronger understanding of how Colorado’s fire service views and communicates with the public about prescribed fire.”
- This group is exploring what work has already been done, and what are the challenges/barriers to getting prescribed fire on the ground.
- Goal is to start local and grow from the bottom up. Work collaboratively, address problems holistically.
- The subcommittee has had three meetings so far; click the following links for meeting information / notes from each: 9/1/22 | 9/29/22 | 10/27/22
Forest Atlas Workshop (Watch: 1:03:25 -1:33:28)
Speaker: Amanda West Fordham, Associate Director, Science and Data Division, Colorado State Forest Service
Amanda gave an overview of how to navigate the Colorado Forest Atlas. Rather than a written summary of this segment, it is easiest to watch the video.
Updates from Leveraging Resources Committee (Watch: 1:43:10-1:51:52)
Speaker: Amy Moyer Director of Strategic Partnerships, Colorado River District
The committee has been continuing discussions about recommending a “Pre-Fire Playbook” to help communities identify responsibilities, think about mitigation actions to take, connect with the right actors pre- and post-fire, and prepare for a quick transition into active fire and post-fire when one should occur.
- Note: There is already a Colorado Post-Fire Recovery Playbook: Guidance for Counties, Tribes, Municipalities, and Water Providers
The Council does not want to duplicate CWCB’s Wildfire Ready Watersheds Initiative, which evaluates susceptibility to wildfire across the state, provides guidance for local groups to contextualize that susceptibility to a local scale and create Wildfire Ready Action Plans, and helps communities move toward implementation of mitigation measures through the Colorado Watershed Restoration Program grant.
Utah has a model called the Watershed Restoration Initiative, which includes a clearinghouse of mapping tools to better share resources state-wide, identify where work is occurring, what lessons have been learned, how to have better approaches in the future.
- Should the Council recommend a similar platform to this?
- Someone notes this could be combined with the Colorado Forest Atlas.
- Question about how the Colorado Fire Commission tracks prescribed fire and suppression activities across the state. Is there an opportunity to coordinate/collaborate between our two Councils on forest management activity tracking and outcomes?
- There could be a requirement to update this tool for all state funding.
How to better leverage resources: Can we use state programs to be contingent on federal grants to help with match? Can we have flexibility in state funding to transfer from pre- to post-fire mid grant cycle if a fire happens?
Legislative Committee Updates (Watch: 1:52:14-2:00:00)
Speaker: Larimer Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally
The Council discussed Senate Bill 23-005 “Forestry and Wildfire Mitigation Workforce”, which is based on recommendations from the Forest Health Council. In short, the bill hopes to expand the forestry workforce by:
- Directing the Colorado State Forest Service to create educational materials for high school students about career opportunities in forestry and wildfire mitigation
- Creating a workforce development program to fund internships in timber, forest health, and wildfire mitigation
- Allocating money to the wildfire mitigation capacity development fund
- Authorizing the expansion and creation of forestry programs in community colleges
- Directing the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education to administer a program to recruit wildland fire prevention and mitigation educators
You can view more details on the bill here.
The bill has a few proposed amendments, which the Council does not believe change the original intent of the bill. The Council voted to allow the Legislative Committee to support these and future amendments so long as they do not change the overall intent of the bill. You can read the full, pre-amended text here with proposed changes double-underlined.
Legislative Updates (Watch 2:35:18 – 2:50:05)
Speaker: Daphne Gervais, Director of Legislative Affairs, Department of Natural Resources
- House Bill 23-1060 “Concerning Updates to the Colorado State Forest Service Seedling Tree Nursery”
This bill would direct the General Assembly to appropriate money for updates/improvements to the Colorado State Forest Service tree nursery to increase capacity. The State Forest Service is in communication with bill sponsors to ensure the appropriations, which will be quite prescriptive in how they can be used, will complement funding received last year for investments in the nursery.
- The Forest Health Council voted to formally support this bill.
- House Bill 1018 “Timber Industry Incentives”
This bill came out of the Wildfire Matters Review Committee. It would create a workforce development program, give funding to support internships, and create a state income tax credit for the purchase of qualifying items used in timber production and forest health. There are ongoing discussions on how this will interact with Senate Bill 23-005 “Forestry and Wildfire Mitigation Workforce” (discussed in Legislative Committee Updates section of this summary, above), and whether the two should merge into one bill.
Roundtable Updates (Watch: 2:50:46 – 2:57:10)
Larimer County Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally
Commissioner Shadduck-McNally shared the photos below from the CSFS nursery tour.
Christina Burri, Watershed Scientist, Denver Water
Denver Water hosted the Biden-Harris Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, a commission appointed to recommend ways for federal agencies to prevent, mitigate, suppress, and manage wildland fires, and policies and strategies for post-fire restoration. This included a workshop focused on post—fire recovery, which featured case studies from Cameron Peak Fire recovery. Christina also attended a USFS Regional Roundtable, which focused on timber industry and biomass barriers. There will be a National Roundtable focused on these topics soon.
- To learn more about Madelene McDonald, a Commission appointee from Denver Water, read this TAP article.
Brett Wolk, Assistant Director, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute
Brett shared information on the upcoming SWERI Cross-Boundary Landscape Restoration Workshop, May 2-4, 2023.
- Note: The Colorado Forest Collaboratives Network is offering flexible funding to support the attendance of members of Colorado’s place-based forest collaboratives. Members of place-based forest collaboratives can apply here.
The next Colorado Forest Health Council quarterly meeting will take place on April 26, 2023.
All Forest Health Council meetings are open to the public and have a segment for public comment toward the end of the meeting.
Agenda and Zoom link will be posted on the Forest Health Council webpage at least 24 hours ahead of the meeting. The Colorado Forest Collaboratives Network will also distribute meeting information when we receive it.
Want more summaries like this?
Contact: Katie McGrath Novak
Coordinator, Colorado Forest Collaboratives Network; Forest Health Council member serving as “an individual employed by or associated with a forest collaborative organization”