Friday, December 8, 2023
Following the devastation of several major fires in Colorado, the Colorado State legislature in 2022 established the Wildfire Mitigation Incentives for Local Government Grant Program to provide competitive state-funded grant funds to match local government contributions towards wildfire mitigation across Colorado. The Program, administered by the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) opened to applications in 2023 and by working together, Delta County and the West Region Wildfire Council (WRWC) were awarded a $600,000 grant for the administration and implementation of wildfire mitigation in Delta County over the next four years. Delta County was one of 16 counties in Colorado selected to receive funding from the Colorado State Forest Service in 2023.
To demonstrate its commitment to reducing wildfire risk and forest management, Delta County has pledged $200,000 in matching funds over four years ($50,000/year) for a total of $800,000 to be used for the implementation of wildfire mitigation in Delta County. Starting in Spring 2024, the West Region Wildfire Council will work on behalf of the County with qualified landowners at risk of wildfire, to reduce the buildup of dangerous fuels on their property that could drive a wildland fire and destroy homes.
The West Region Wildfire Council will complete free site visits for homeowners and work with partners to increase and enhance defensible space around homes and other infrastructure, thin trees along roads to provide safe passage for firefighters and citizens in the event of a wildfire, create fuel breaks to protect communities, and plan cross-boundary wildfire risk-reduction projects.
“We are grateful for the support of the Colorado State Forest Service and their efforts to fund wildfire mitigation projects to protect our forest health in Delta County. These grant funds and matching County funds combined with the expertise and management by the West Region Wildfire Council will improve forest health and wildlife habitat while reducing wildfire risk in Delta County;” said Delta County Emergency Manager Kris Stewart.
When asked what the grant means for the County, Delta County Commissioner Wendell Koontz said, “Delta County has a long relationship with the West Region Wildfire Council to implement wildfire mitigation and education programs in Delta County, and this grant award is a huge win for both organizations, and it wouldn’t be possible without the leadership from the dedicated individuals at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Colorado State Forest Service and U.S. Forest Service. Special thanks to the staff at the Wildfire Council and Delta County Emergency Management for working together to secure these grant funds which will help mitigate the potential for future wildland fires that could threaten homes, watersheds and lives.”
According to WRWC Executive Director Jamie Gomez, “We are honored to receive this grant on behalf of Delta County and its residents and are thrilled with Delta County’s commitment to support this kind of work throughout the county.”
“I am pleased to see counties, municipalities, and local conservation and fire districts across Colorado taking action to reduce their risk of wildfire by dedicating long-term funding to these efforts,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “The strong local support and interest in the Incentives for Local Government program clearly demonstrate the wildfire mitigation needs in our forests and communities. Local leaders understand the needs of their communities, and ILG-funded projects will provide on-the-ground resources for local governments to leverage for their forest mitigation and wildfire prevention priorities.”
“Delta County, the State of Colorado, and local federal agencies are demonstrating the whole of government approach to addressing the wildfire risk to communities in Western Colorado”, said U.S. Forest Service, Grand Mesa National Forest District Ranger Bill Edwards. “This grant fully complements landscape-scale Forest Service-led efforts in Delta County such as the Grand Mesa Watershed Resiliency Partnership and the Paonia Wildlife Winter Habitat Improvement Project, which have goals of reducing long-term wildfire risk to adjacent communities and their vital watersheds.”
Property owners in Delta County’s wildland urban interface can sign up for a free Site Visit from the West Region Wildfire Council. Site visits will resume in spring 2024, during which a WRWC Wildfire Mitigation Specialist will meet with the landowner at their home or property to discuss site-specific wildfire risk reduction and mitigation strategies. Staff will determine if landowners qualify to apply for WRWC’s vegetation management cost-share program. After the visit, they’ll be sent a detailed report with recommendations. The grant will partially reimburse homeowners to pay for mitigation contractors to perform fuels reduction work on private property and pay for the administration of the program through the Wildfire Council.
The West Region Wildfire Council is a nonprofit that works to increase resilience to wildfire in Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray and San Miguel Counties. People can find out about WRWC programs, wildfire preparedness and more at the Wildfire Council's website, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 970-615-7300.
For more information:
Delta County Emergency Manager - Kris Stewart, 970-874-2004
West Region Wildfire Council - Leigh Robertson, 970-615-7300