Latest grant cycle awards $258,000 to treat about 184 acres across Summit County
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The local wildfire council Wednesday afternoon adopted a revised version of the community wildfire protection plan and awarded about $258,000 in grants to help reduce the threat of wildfires in neighborhoods around the county.
The updated version of the wildfire plan will continue to be a model statewide and around the country, said County Commissioner Bob French.
The original plan was adopted in 2006 and the county, together with the U.S. Forest Service, has treated about 3.7 square miles, or more than 2,382 acres, under guidelines that focus on high-priority areas.
New language emphasizes identification of high-risk areas, as well as public education, implementation and funding. It also includes an expanded community overview, as well as detailed community protection assessment maps, with information on fuel hazards and risks to essential infrastructure and community values.
One of the biggest changes is a new emphasis on preventing the spread of invasive plants in treated areas, said assistant county manager Steve Hill.
The grants awarded ranged from about $5,000 for a couple of smaller one to eight-acre projects, all the way up to $122,000 for a 36-acre project at Summit Estates.
The cost-per-acre also varied widely, from about $500 per acre for an eight-acre project at Riverwood, to about $6,600 per acre for a project on some steep hillsides in the Warrior’s Mark neighborhood. The Keystone Ranch neighborhood won a $22,000 grant, and the Lewis Ranch subdivision at Copper Mountain also garnered $17,000 for a seven-acre project, at a cost of about $4,800 per acre.
Several other projects were denied, mostly because they were outside the targeted focus areas. Other areas were eliminated in a pre-screening process, said Jeff Berino, of Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.
Forest Service officials also outlined plans for a far-reaching forest treatment project at Keystone Ski Area, pointing out that the agency only garnered a few public comments from Summit County on the proposal.
The wildfire council also took another look at the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal. While some local officials are still leery of how the plan could affect firefighting efforts, the council ultimately decided that the plan won’t present a significant problem.
“I hear the firefighters in the room saying … the Hidden Gems plan, as drafted, won’t hinder local efforts to fight fires or do restoration,” said wildfire council chair Bob French, before the council passed a motion to that effect.