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Forest Health Council – July 27, 2023 Quarterly Meeting Summary 

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 July 27th, 2023 Colorado Forest Health Council quarterly 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. 

Additional resources:

  1. Meeting recording (relevant timestamps listed throughout summary)
  2. Meeting packet (agenda & approved recommendations)
  3. Official meeting minutes will be available on the Forest Health Council webpage within a few weeks. 
  4. In case you missed it:


  • Committee updates (~7min watch: 30:4937:59)
  • Discussion and voting on 2023 legislative and administrative recommendations (~2hr watch: 37:591:28:28, then further discussion from 1:54:202:50:30)
  • Introduction to Colorado Mass Timber Coalition (~15min watch: 1:39:301:54:20)

Committee Updates
(~7min watch: 30:4937:59)

Leveraging Resources Committee

Speaker: Amy Moyer, Leveraging Resources Committee Chair

  • The committee has mostly been working on the Forest Resilience Planning Guide concept (more detail in next section).
  • The committee is seeking a new chair, to be voted on in August 2023 as Amy steps down to welcome a new addition to her family.

Legislative Committee

Speaker: Jody Shadduck-McNally, Larimer County Commissioner & Legislative Committee Chair

  • The committee has been working hard to develop five legislative recommendations and three administrative recommendations to be voted on in this meeting.

Discussion and Voting on Legislative and Administrative Recommendations
(~2hr watch: 37:591:28:28, then further discussion from 1:54:202:50:30)

Each year, the Colorado Forest Health Council develops recommendations to be sent to the Wildfire Matters Review Committee (a committee of the Colorado General Assembly). The recommendations are also reviewed by Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Gibbs and Colorado State Forest Service Director Matt McCombs, and they are included in the Council’s annual report.

Below, you will find an annotated version of the Council’s recommendations, along with discussion notes about why each change was made.


  • Underlined = additions from draft to final recommendations
  • Crossed out = deletions from draft to final recommendations

Legislative Recommendations

  1. Annual Appropriation of $1.5M for GNA

The Good Neighbor program allows the USFS and BLM to enter into cooperative agreements with states to perform forest, rangeland and watershed restoration projects on federal lands. CRS § 23-31-313 Healthy Forests- Vibrant Communities fund provides the statutory authority for CSFS to work collaboratively with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management “to implement forest management treatments that improve forest health and resilience.” The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) has the authority to conduct forest treatments on National Forests and BLM lands in Colorado, complementing work on state and private lands. Specific benefits of the Good Neighbor Authority include greater efficiencies and less need for creating and maintaining roads to address project work. Eligible projects include those that protect water supplies, manage bark beetles, reduce wildfire risk and meet other forest management  objectives. The Committee recommends advocating for an additional $1.5M dollars per year for GNA work. 

Discussion notes:

  • The intention is to use this money as leverage to achieve even greater federal funding opportunities. There is no guarantee it will result in greater federal funding, but that is the goal.
  • Last year’s recommendations to the Wildfire Matters Committee did not include specific dollar amounts. We would love to see even more than $1.5mil go toward GNA, so rather than put boundaries around it, let’s get rid of the dollar amount and allow the legislature to determine the specific amount.

2. Appropriate $1M specifically for capacity building through FRWRM for three years

The Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation (FRWRM) grant program funds two types of projects: fuels and forest health projects (implementation on the ground) and capacity building projects (Capacity Grants). Language for capacity building projects in the original legislation allowed for applicants to purchase equipment for project implementation. In 2021, Senate Bill 21-258 was passed which made several changes to the FRWRM grant program. These changes included expanding eligibility for Capacity Grant projects to those providing local governments, community groups, and collaborative forestry groups with the resources and staffing necessary to plan and implement forest restoration and wildfire risk mitigation projects. Other eligible capacity building costs include community and partner outreach and engagement, identifying priority project areas, prescription planning and acquiring community equipment for use by landowners. FRWRM’s Capacity Grants currently are funded with up to 25% of the total FRWRM funds available, and the program has an annual appropriation of $8M. This proposal would add an additional $1M per year for three years, in addition to the 25% of existing FRWRM funds, to the FRWRM Capacity Grants program. 

Discussion notes:

  • The recommendation to guarantee this capacity funding boost over 3 years arose from a need we heard to have more predictable/consistent capacity funding opportunities over time. [Note: these needs were identified in the May 2023 Colorado Forest Collaboratives Network Branching Out listening session and shared to the legislative committee through our Recommendations from Colorado Forest Collaboratives to the Forest Health Council].
  • The language in this recommendation was edited for clarity. Currently, of FRWRM’s $8mil, up to 25% ($2mil) is available for capacity; this recommendation would add an additional $1mil to the existing $2mil, for a total of $3mil in available capacity funds.

3. Pilot a statewide mitigation day(s) for counties to support private landowner slash accumulation through curbside removal.

Biomass challenges are experienced at all levels of mitigation and forestry work. To make progress on removing biomass from the landscape at a property scale, a pilot program may be created in high risk interested counties. These pilot programs would offer mitigation days day(s) where private landowners can utilize the county resources to remove slash created through mitigation and thinning. 

Discussion notes:

  • Original language for this recommendation said it would be available for ‘high risk’ communities. We changed the language to ‘interested’ counties to ensure counties would see this as an opportunity, rather than a mandate, and to avoid excluding ‘lower risk’ communities who are enthusiastic about participating.
  • We expended the language to say “day(s)” to allow the opportunity to expand beyond a single day.
  • Several council members suggested specific components that could be added to this recommendation:
    • Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon suggested a cost-share program like this one in Douglas County.
    • Katie McGrath Novak suggested incorporating the mitigation day(s) into the state’s Live Wildfire Ready campaign for cohesive messaging & to make communities feel like they’re contributing to a larger effort, and suggested involving private companies in the day through a volunteer model like Saluting Branches.
    • La Plata County Commissioner Clyde Church noted that many counties face challenges with removing biomass, and will need Debris Management Plans before encouraging large mitigation days.

Recognizing that this recommendation presents many opportunities and there are many details to be worked out, we decided to keep the recommendation high-level at this time. 

4. Annual appropriation for the CSFS nursery for CSFS nursery staff and facilities and equipment maintenance.

Nursery sales cover operating expenses; seedlings are thus cost prohibitive to large reforestation and conservation projects. With an annual appropriation covering staff and facility expenses, the price of seedlings could be lower and accessible to more projects. 

Discussion points:

  • This recommendation was approved as-is.

5. Support seed collection and reforestation 

  • Workforce development: Create a State Seed Collection and Reforestation Corps.
  • Create and fund a state grant program to broadly support seed collection and storage, post-fire reforestation and revegetation project implementation and monitoring programs.
  • Fund a Gap Analysis Study of the Reforestation Pipeline in Colorado to direct investment to areas of greatest need and identify the most impactful role for the state.

There are limited resources in the state for seed collection and reforestation, particularly conifer seeds throughout the southern Rockies and Southwest USA. Building capacity in this specific skill set is important to increase the rate and success of reforestation. Funding for entities already doing this work is needed along with investments in workforce development. 

Discussion notes:

  • The committee had done a lot of back-and-forth discussion in meetings about whether to include a gap analysis study component to this recommendation. The primary concerns the committee had were: 1) Studies take a long time, and we do not want to hold up this urgent initiative; and 2) There was a lack of clarity amongst committee members about what the study would cover. With expanded expertise from the full Council, we determined there is a strong need for a gap analysis, and we added it back into the recommendation (part c).
  • Brett Wolk noted that different types of seeds are needed at different phases of reforestation – grasses, forbs, and shrubs are often planted immediately post-fire whereas tree seeds are needed down the road for longer-term reforestation. Per Brett’s suggestion, we did not restrict the recommendation to include only tree seeds, but we clarified that the intent of the recommendation was to focus most heavily on tree seeds, specifically conifers throughout the southern Rockies and southwest USA.

Administrative Recommendations

  1. The Legislative Committee asks CSFS to convene a forum or meeting around adaptive silviculture, Vapor Pressure Deficit changes, and how this impacts the future health of our forests and what measures for mitigation actions we should consider. 

As temperatures in Colorado are expected to rise, Vapor Pressure Deficit is likewise expected to rise. While there is ample information on the expected atmospheric changes, there is no consensus on the best methods to mediate or adapt forest management to these changes. 

Discussion points:

  • This recommendation was approved as-is.

2. The Legislative Committee recommends, as part of the interagency Colorado Fire Commission Prescribed Fire Subcommittee, the CSFS, DFPC and other agencies and/or stakeholders convene an informational session(s) to increase awareness and facilitate participation in prescribed fire and slash disposal policy development in Colorado. In particular, tribal voices and perspectives shall be included to raise awareness of historic tribal cultural practices and expertise in prescribed fire. Core issues to be addressed should include: liability, smoke management and resource capacity. The agencies will have 12 months from full Forest Health Council approval to convene. 

The Forest Health Council would like to show its support for collaborative and expeditious movement towards prescribed fire implementation. 

Discussion points:

  • We adjusted the language in this recommendation to clarify that this effort will be done as part of, and in close alignment with, the existing efforts of the Colorado Fire Commission’s Prescribed Fire Subcommittee.
  • We also added slash disposal to the subject matter to be discussed, noting that there is a huge backlog of unburned piles across Colorado that may be dealt with in a variety of different ways based on what is readily available.

3. The Legislative Committee recommends DNR and CSFS work with USFS to negotiate the ability for NGOs and state agencies to reforest USFS lands under Shared Stewardship or Good Neighbor Authority-type agreements. Also, state agencies lobby federal partners to expedite NEPA for post-fire reforestation projects. 

Nonprofits in the state doing reforestation are often unable to work on federal lands, which limits the scale and landscape impact of reforestation efforts. 

Discussion points:

  • This recommendation was approved as-is.

4. Development of a pre-fire and forest health planning guide. 

The Forest Health Council will create a detailed outline of a planning guide with a recommendation that the Colorado State Forest Service use existing resources to finalize the resource product in collaboration with the Forest Health Council. Should costs exceed what the CSFS can fund, an effort to solicit contributions from other partners will be made to cover the remaining costs.

Full language: 

The Forest Health Council Committee on Leveraging Resources recommends that the Forest Health Council adopt the following recommendation to be included within the 2023 Annual Report:

  • The Forest Health Council recommends the creation of a planning guide to complement or be included as a chapter within the existing Post-Fire Playbook.
    • The planning guide would incorporate the broad expertise and experiences included with the Forest Health Council to achieve the following purpose and goal and be targeted at the following audience:
      • Purpose: The planning guide will assist with positioning all areas and communities in Colorado to better leverage resources, knowledge share, and be competitive at receiving funding to achieve effective forest health management and resiliency.
      • Goal: The planning guide provides a starting point on how to access science-based modeling, existing resources and technical capacity, and statewide priorities to improve existing processes in pre-fire planning and forest health efforts.
      • Audience: Targeted at the local government and community-level, while being broadly understandable to a range of stakeholders from the individual to multiple adjacent counties interested in advancing pre-fire planning and building forest health resiliency.
    • The Forest Health Council will create a detailed outline of the planning guide with a recommendation that the Colorado State Forest Service use existing resources to finalize the resource product in collaboration with the Forest Health Council. Should costs exceed what the CSFS can fund, an effort to solicit contributions from other partners will be made to cover the remaining costs. 

Discussion points:

  • We pulled additional language from the committee’s Forest Resiliency Planning Guide outline, to add additional context to this recommendation.

Introduction to Colorado Mass Timber Coalition
(~15min watch: 1:39:301:54:20)

Speaker: Whitney Johnson, Senior Program Officer for Natural Resources, Gates Family Foundation

Whitney introduced councilmembers to the all-new Mass Timber Coalition.

  • Folks at Gates Family Foundation had been hearing about buildings being built with mass timber. Mass timber is an engineered wood product made from small-diameter wood, bound together to create a very strong structural building material. 
  • Colorado has started utilizing mass timber as a building material, but are currently using wood trucked in from far away. Meanwhile, Colorado itself is in dire need of fuel treatment and is often burning or chipping small-diameter trees.
  • Gates Family Foundation thought, “Can we address Colorado’s forest health and wildfire crisis with a new generation of building using Colorado-sourced fiber?”
  • The newly-forming Colorado Mass Timber Coalition will include foresters, sawmills, architects, engineers, and more.
  • Scope of work:            
    • Forest resources (ie. Can we access trees? What kind of trees? What are they suitable for?)
    • Demand development (Denver is a hot spot right now; where are there opportunities to do more? Can we incentivize building with mass timber? Are there policies that can support demand?)
    • Workforce development
    • Manufacturing & Milling (Colorado doesn’t have as robust of industry as is needed. Can we add capacity to existing sawmills? What scale of facility do we need?)
    • Affordable housing (Can mass timber be a way to create affordable, modular housing at a rapid pace?)

Stay tuned for the Colorado Mass Timber Coalition’s official kickoff in September 2023.


Getting involved with the Colorado Forest Health Council

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? 

Be sure to subscribe to the Colorado Forest Collaboratives Network email list to receive summaries like this after each Forest Health Council meeting. They will also be posted on our webpage

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”