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Forest Health Council – January 31st, 2024 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 January 31st, 2024 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 (coming soon!)
  2. All meeting slides
  3. ACTION ITEM – due 12pm Monday, February 19th – for participants of place-based forest collaboratives in Colorado: Please share your feedback on draft recommendations for Katie to share with the CFHC Legislative Committee at their February 23rd meeting.
  4. Additional resources from the Colorado Forest Collaboratives Network (not official Colorado Forest Health Council resources):


  • Agenda items not summarized
  • Organizational Assessment review (slides)
  • Committee updates
    • Leveraging Resources Committee
    • Legislative Committee
  • Colorado Outdoor Strategy presentation (slides)
  • Water conversation (slides)
  • Roundtable updates
Agenda items not summarized

To keep this summary short and relevant to forest collaboratives, this summary does not cover the following agenda items:

  • Roll call & review agenda
  • Approve 8/28/23 and 10/25/32 meeting summaries

Organizational Assessment review (Speaker: Alison Lerch)

Alison’s presentation outlined findings from the Organizational Analysis of State Supported Wildfire Mitigation Efforts in Colorado. This analysis, mandated by Senate Bill 21-258, brought together the Department of Natural Resources, Colorado State Forest Service, and Division of Fire Prevention and Control to assess wildfire mitigation efforts across state agencies and “determine the most efficient and effective organizational structure for those efforts.” Information for the assessment was gathered through a tabletop review of relevant documents, individual and group interviews, and surveys.

Key findings (quoted directly from Alison’s presentation):
  • Wildfire mitigation efforts are currently guided by strategy defined at the agency-level
  • Prioritization is the most frequently identified reason for developing a collective strategy
  • External partners see value in building a more collective statewide approach
  • Internal teams and external partners have confidence in the collective skills and capabilities of DNR, CSFS, and DFPC by both internal teams and external partners
  • Internal teams view the primary capabilities of each agency as complementary and strong
  • Each agency has distinctive primary capabilities in wildfire mitigation efforts. Knowledge of each agency’s skills and capabilities vary among external partners depending on the level of existing working relationships with an agency
  • By building a stronger collective awareness of overall funding, agency resources could potentially be combined or considered in new ways to unlock greater value for mitigation efforts across the state
  • Sustainable funding is a key success factor for wildfire mitigation programs
  • Workforce capacity, especially in implementation, is a challenge across wildfire mitigation efforts
  • Challenges aligning the CSFS and DNR budget process with mitigation priorities exist within the current structure
  • Collaboration during key decisions in strategy and planning could improve mitigation outcomes.
  • External stakeholders are still understanding DNR’s role in wildfire mitigation

And, here are the recommendations (also quoted directly from Alison’s presentation):

Short Term

  • Improve annual joint work planning to enable shared prioritization across wildfire mitigation efforts, and clarify the budget and programmatic functionality of the Division of Forestry
  • Clarify budget & programmatic functionality of Division of Forestry
  • Explore how collaboration during project planning can deliver more successful mitigation treatments
  • Promote a greater understanding of the interconnected relationship between suppression and mitigation efforts among stakeholders

Medium Term

  • Establish a statewide strategic approach to strengthen alignment with Shared
  • Stewardship and related initiatives, and build additional capacity for prescribed fire by continuing to grow a highly skilled and trained workforce.

Long Term

  • Develop a strategic plan across DNR, CSFS and DFPC to guide wildfire
  • mitigation efforts, and collectively define and track strategic performance measures across statewide efforts.

Alison strongly recommended reading the full report, as the presentation for the CFHC was just a quick glimpse into a few key points.

You can read the full report here.

View Alison’s full presentation slides here.

Committee updates

Legislative Committee Updates (Speaker: Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally, Committee Chair)

Using a breakdown of last year’s progress as a guide, Legislative Committee members created a calendar for the 2024 legislative session, and backtracked to determine a schedule for the committee to hear from experts and then formulate legislative recommendations.

Currently, the committee is simultaneously tracking 2023 recommendations as they move through the legislature, while looking ahead to what they might recommend for 2025.

Commissioner Shadduck-McNally shared a few updates on CFHC recommendations that are now moving through the legislature:

Leveraging Resources Committee (Speaker: Christina Burri, Committee Chair)

The Leveraging Resources has focused a lot on the Colorado Forest Tracker in recent months. Christina shared key takeaways from presentations the committee heard about similar data collection initiatives in other states: Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative and California’s Treatment Dashboard.

A few key takeaways from Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI) included:

  • It is a grant program, but takes a holistic approach involving collaborative project development, implementation, tracking on all lands, grant support, post-treatment monitoring, and more.
  • The ranking process for who gets grants is fully transparent.
  • The speaker from WRI  shared a compelling graphic (below) that got the committee thinking, “What do we want Colorado’s graphic to look like 10 years from now?”
Infographic shares WRI's accomplishments since 2006. 2,700 total projects completed; 2,531 stream miles improved; 2.5 million total acres restored including 36% fire rehab, 64% proactive, 66% federal, 20% state, and 14% private; 743,790 acres of new Class III cultural resource inventory; 10,881 new culturally significant sites added to the historical record; 14,903,151 pounds of seed mixed and applied; $377 million total funding invested including $123 million state, $212mil federal, $27mil conservation groups, and $15mil other; 6,560 estimated jobs created; $920mil total economic output; and 700+ funding partners.

Key takeaways from California’s Treatment Dashboard included:

  • California’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force facilitates and tracks progress on 100 deliverables in California’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan
  • The Task Force maintains an interagency tracking system
  • They track treatments using “activity” and “footprint” metrics, to capture treatments that have multiple activities in the same footprint.
  • Their biggest impact is working with the legislature and governor to show how money is being spent across the state.
Christina also shared an update on the Forest Resilience Planning Guide. The Colorado State Forest Service is in the process of hiring a contractor and the CFHC will continue to be engaged with the development of the Guide moving forward. 

Colorado Outdoor Strategy Presentation (Speaker: Julie Shapiro)

Julie Shapiro shared an overview of the Colorado Outdoor Strategy. This regionally-rooted, statewide strategy was established by Executive Order B2020-008. Through an analysis of more than 500 documents (including various strategic plans, prioritization maps, policies, etc.), the strategy aims to find alignment amongst the many existing recreation planning efforts in Colorado. 

Click here to view slides from this presentation.

Water Conversation (Speaker: Madelene McDonald)

Madelene shared the story of the Forest to Faucets Partnership, which originated when post-wildfire effects to the watershed cost Denver water $27 million.

Denver water now supports wildfire mitigation treatments, offers resources for fire response (such as free water and equipment), and assists in recovery efforts. A powerful quote from Madelene about Denver Water’s decision to so strongly support pre-fire mitigation efforts: “We can rebuild structures; we can’t rebuild watersheds.”

Click here to view slides from this presentation.

Roundtable updates

Katie McGrath Novak – Recently hosted a listening session for members of forest collaboratives to develop recommendations to be sent to the CFHC. Stay tuned for these to be finalized and presented to the Legislative Committee on February [23rd].

Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally – Larimer county is putting money toward a workforce development program for fire mitigation in Larimer County.

Julie Stencel – Xcel Energy launched a pilot program using artificial intelligence and wildfire cameras to detect wildfires early and alert local governments. You can read about it in this news article.

Amanda West-Fordham – The Colorado State Forest Service has finished a draft of a statewide biomass assessment that is about 100 pages long. Stay tuned for updates.

Commissioner Clyde Church – La Plata County received a COSWAP grant to support wildfire mitigation and water quality improvements. Learn about it on this webpage

Getting involved with the Colorado Forest Health Council

Attend meetings | 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. 

2024 meeting dates | Save the dates for our 2024 quarterly meetings:

  • Wednesday, April 24th
  • Wednesday, July 24th
  • October meeting date TBD

Meeting summaries |
 The CFCN compiles summaries like this, along with other relevant resources, on our page Keeping Up With the Colorado Forest Health Council.

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”