Community wildfire preparedness supported by Common Ground

Common Ground invests in programs that help implement the CWPP — a plan to treat 30,000 acres of public and private lands by 2030 in Chaffee County through prescribed burns (pictured), thinning and other action.

More than $4 million in Common Ground funding is helping to implement Chaffee County’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The plan maps where to treat up to 30,000 acres of public and private lands by 2030 to improve wildfire resiliency as local forests have declined into poor health and contributed to increased wildfire incidents.

Implementation of the 10-year plan is led by the Envision Forest Health Council, a group of community leaders and land management agencies who developed the plan in 2020 to protect what residents said they value most: firefighter lives, human lives, drinking water supply, essential infrastructure, homes, wildlife habitat and recreation assets that support the local economy. 

The plan uses computer modeling techniques developed by the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State University to map the level of wildfire risk and identify areas to treat the forest for the highest cost efficiency. This new approach “treats the right acres for the highest community benefit,” said Damon Lange, Southwest Area Manager with the Colorado State Forest Service.

The outcome of the modeling and mapping work proposes substantial changes to the way forest management is done in Chaffee County. The plan is to reduce the overall risk to the community’s assets by nearly 50% in ten years by accelerating forest treatments such as prescribed burns and thinning trees on the right acres.

The Envision Forest Health Council includes leaders from many organizations and all land management agencies working to support CWPP implementation. The plan was signed on Feb. 4, 2020, pictured from left: Commissioner Keith Baker, Commissioner Rusty Granzella, Colorado State Forest Service Supervisory Forester Adam Moore, Chaffee Fire Protection District Chief Robert Bertram, Salida Fire Department Chief Doug Bess, Envision Chaffee County Co-lead Cindy Williams, Buena Vista Fire Chief Dixon Villars and Commissioner Greg Felt.

Grants were awarded to local partners to develop programs that encourage and enable citizens to improve their defensible space, have personal evacuation plans in place, and make their neighborhoods more fire resilient. Funding translates Common Ground goals into on-the-ground projects such as fuel breaks and helps residents prepare for a large wildfire.

The Council also works to develop funding needed over 10 years to accomplish the county’s goals. Common Ground forest health funds are leveraged to the highest extent possible to support strategic investments in overall forest health.

Read more Stories of Impact from Chaffee Common Ground