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Forest Health Council – April 23rd, 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 April 23rd, 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. 

Important! The Colorado Forest Health Council is seeking 2 new members:

The CFHC is seeking to fill the following vacancies:

  • an employee of a municipal drinking water supplier east of the continental divide. 
  • someone employed by, or associated with, the insurance industry. 


Interested parties should fill out an application on the Colorado Board and Commissions website, HERE. Please share this opportunity!

Applications are due May 20th. 

Additional resources:

  1. Meeting recording (coming soon!)
  2. Additional resources from the Colorado Forest Collaboratives Network (not official Colorado Forest Health Council resources):


  • Update on legislative session
  • Update on administrative recommendations from 2023
  • Committee updates
    • Leveraging Resources Committee
    • Legislative Committee
  • Discussion of 30-year vision
  • Roundtable updates

Update on Legislative Session

Speaker: James Lucero (Colorado State Forest Service, Associate Director for Policy & Legislative Affairs)

James gave a quick overview of several bills being tracked by the CFHC. Note: These updates were current as of the time of the CFHC meeting on April 23rd; things move quickly at this time of the legislative session! Click the links for each bill to track most recent updates.

House Bills:

  • HB24-1300: Home Sale Wildfire Mitigation Requirements (Concerning wildfire mitigation requirements in connection with the sale of a residence).
    The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) secured the amendments they were hoping for; this bill passed the House and is moving to the Senate.

  • HB24-1024: Extend Outreach Campaigns Wildfire Risk Mitigation (Concerning the continuation of public outreach campaigns relating to wildfire risk mitigation in the wildland-urban interface, and, in connection therewith, making an appropriation).
    This bill would extend funding for the Live Wildfire Ready Campaign. The bill passed the appropriations committee, and would mean extending the campaign with an additional $40,000 investment. CSFS Director Matt McCombs added that CSFS is committed to continuing the campaign.
  • HB24-1006: Assist Rural Community Wildfire-Related Grant Application (Concerning assistance for rural communities to apply for wildfire-related grant money).
    The proposed grant navigator position will now be housed in the CSFS.
  • NOTE: None of these bills were recommended by the CFHC in the 2023 annual report, but they are being tracked due to their relevance to the CFHC’s work.


Senate Bills:

  • SB24-009: Local Government Disaster-Related Programs (Concerning assisting local governments in disaster-related programs, and, in connection therewith, establishing the slash removal pilot program and providing guidance to local governments on debris removal programs).
    This bill seemed favorable in the Agriculture committee, but is still waiting on a dollar amount from the appropriations committee.
    • This bill came from a CFHC 2023 recommendation.
  • SB24-028: Study Biochar in Wildfire Mitigation Efforts (Concerning a comprehensive study on biochar, and, in connection therewith, studying the use of biochar in wildfire mitigation efforts).
    The fiscal review for this bill came back lower than what Colorado State University needs to complete the study; it has been sent back for revision, but doesn’t appear to be rescheduled yet.
    • Mark Morgan noted that the private industry is investing in similar work.

Update on Administrative Recommendations from 2023

Speaker: James Lucero (Colorado State Forest Service, Associate Director for Policy & Legislative Affairs)

The Colorado Forest Health Council included several administrative recommendations in the 2023 Annual Report (pg. 13-15). James gave the latest updates on the progress of these recommendations.

Recommendation: 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.

Progress: James is working with relevant partners who will need to be involved in this effort, and is working to find a time for them to convene.

Recommendation: 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.

Progress: The 12-month deadline for this meeting is August 2024. DNR staff have identified a large group of partners for an initial meeting, including representatives from CSFS, Department of Fire Prevention and Control, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, the Southern Ute tribe, and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Members of the Colorado Fire Commission and CFHC Joint Prescribed Fire Subcommittee will also more frequently cross-pollinate work that is being done across the bodies.

Recommendation: 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.

Progress: This recommendation is on hold temporarily as there is turnover in several key US Forest Service positions. John Ring asked to include the Bureau of Land Management in this effort.

Recommendation: Development of a Pre-fire and Forest Health Planning Guide.

Progress: See below, under Leveraging Resources Committee Update.

Committee updates

Leveraging Resources Committee (Speaker: Brett Wolk, Committee Member)

Colorado Forest Management Activities Tracker: The Colorado Forest Restoration Institute and CSFS have been working in close partnership on this effort. 

  • They are currently processing federal (BLM, USFS, and NPS) and state (CSFS, CPW) data & hope to release a beta version of the database with just this data in 1-2 months. 
  • After beta release with federal and state data, they will focus on filling in the gaps with local data (including data from forest collaboratives!) – they are being careful to avoid double-capturing data that may have been captured by federal/state agencies in addition to local organizations.
  • Based on presentations the Leveraging Resources Committee has heard about similar efforts in other states (California, Utah), it is likely this effort will need to be staffed in the long term.


Forest Resilience Planning Guide: With funding from CSFS and the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, the team hired CDR Associates to complete the Guide. It is estimated to be completed later this year.


Future work: The committee’s next steps will be determined by asking members: What resources do you have? What resources would you like to see from others?

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

This committee has been narrowing down recommendations from a long list of potential options. These are the recommendations so far:

  • Additional Capacity Support for FRWRM

Appropriate $1M specifically for capacity building through FRWRM for at least one year, subject to available appropriations thereafter. 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. 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 collaborative capacity, personnel capacity, 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 specifically for capacity requests for at least one year, in addition to the 25% of existing FRWRM funds. In total $3 million would be available for capacity support, up from $2 million.

NOTE: This recommendation came largely from collaboratives’ recommendation to support collaborative capacity.


  • Expand the Colorado State Forest Service Internship Program

Expand and fund the Colorado State Forest Service internship program to higher education programs located close to CSFS field offices.


  • Forestry career pathway awareness for students

Expand forestry career pathway awareness in middle schools and high schools

NOTE: This recommendation came about in part due to collaboratives’ recommendation related to workforce challenges.


  • Colorado Community Navigator Program (Adapted from HB24-1006, Assist Rural Community Wildfire-Related Grant Application. Will be removed if HB24-1006 passes)

Create a bill that directs the State Forest Service to create the “Rural Grant Navigator Grant Program” a (competitive or other) grant program which will provide grant money for NGO’s providing outreach and technical assistance, including grant writing assistance to rural communities seeking to apply for federal or state grants related to wildfire mitigation and preparedness. Bill could include language including “creating the grant program, the agency, to the best of its ability, will consult with other departments on effective uses of money and successful outcomes and minimizing duplicative efforts. The State Forest Service will submit a report summarizing the program to the Wildfire Matter Review Committee or the House and Senate Agriculture committees.

30-Year Vision

One of the CFHC’s statutory duties, according to the legislation that created the CFHC, is: “Development of, and recommendations for, attaining a thirty-year vision for forest health in Colorado, including developing goals and both annual and multi-year recommendations for actions to improve forest health and reduce fire risk through increased funding and capacity building.”

Council members indicted in a survey that creating a 30-year vision is a high priority for 2024.

In the CFHC’s October 2023 meeting, it was determined that the CFHC should hire a facilitator to guide the creation of the 30-year vision.

In this discussion:

  • CSFS Director Matt McCombs suggested the 30-year vision could be housed in the Colorado Forest Action Plan revision. Council members discussed pros and cons of this approach: a primary ‘pro’ being that it would be great to see the 30-year vision have such a direct connection to the Forest Action Plan and DNR/CSFS leadership; a primary concern being that housing the 30-year vision in the Forest Action Plan could narrow its scope to just the CSFS, rather than having it guide the legislature and broader land management in Colorado. 
  • Ultimately, the CFHC did not make a decision on where the 30-year vision will be housed, but agreed that hiring a 3rd party facilitator is the next step in accomplishing such a task. 

Roundtable Updates

Katie McGrath Novak, serving as an individual employed or associated with a forest collaborative organization

Thanks to both the Leveraging Resources Committee and the Legislative Committee for their consideration of collaboratives’ 2024 recommendations. I’m very happy to see these reflected in several of the CFHC’s recommendations.

Save the date for the Colorado Forest Collaboratives Summit! September 4-6, 2024 in Durango, CO.

Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally, serving as a county commissioner east of the continental divide

Partnership between HOAs, Office of Emergency Management, and Volunteer Fire Departments in Larimer County – they are sharing an air curtain burner purchased by the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition that was donated to Loveland Fire Authority.

Amy Moyer, serving as an individual employed by a water supplier, including a municipal drinking water supplier and an irrigation water supplier, west of the continental divide

The Colorado River District is working on an acquisition of the largest, most senior non-consumptive water right on the Colorado River. The acquisition will add in-stream flow rights, adding ecosystem benefits across the main stem of the River. Read more in this article

Julie Stencel, serving as an individual employed by a public utility that owns or operates transmission facilities

Xcel Energy recently implemented a public safety power shutoff to reduce wildfire risk during an extreme wind event. This was a first for Xcel and they are learning from the experience.

Director Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources & CFHC Chair

Alison Lerch was recently promoted to Forest Health & Wildfire Mitigation Program Manager. Courtney Young was promoted to Forest Health & Wildfire Mitigation Program Administrator. Congratulations to Alison and Courtney!

The 2nd round of COSWAP funds were awarded this winter, adding 23 new projects. 

Brett Wolk, serving as an individual employed by a research institution and who has forest policy expertise

The Colorado Forest Restoration Institute is excited to be doing effectiveness monitoring to measure outcomes of the COSWAP program.

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, 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”