Much of the success in Boulder County stems from
having continuous interest in treatment for some 25 years that has contributed
to strong relationships built through mitigation and suppression activities.
Given Boulder County's fragmented land ownership, interagency cooperation
and partnerships are a necessity for wildfire mitigation. They have organized
inter-agency multilateral forums for meeting on both wildfire mitigation
County Wildfire Mitigation Group) and suppression (Boulder
County Fire Fighter's Association). Colorado
State Forest Service works closely with the United
States Forest Service and coordinates their private property mitigation
efforts with adjacent USFS public property mitigation work. CSFS has a strong
private property landowner wildfire mitigation treatment focus through defensible
space work and fuel breaks. CSFS has good working relationships with homeowners
enabling private property hazardous fuels reduction treatment work. Boulder
County has been forward thinking in their early land use planning and regulations
enacted and enforced. There is strong public outreach and mitigation education
through the County Wildfire
Mitigation Specialist's position, the Winiger
Ridge project, and the effort of the local Red Cross office.
On the suppression side, Boulder County has some of
the best-educated, equipped and trained wildland firefighters in the western
U.S. For 20 years the Boulder
County Fire Fighters Association has been meeting on a monthly basis.
This is an interagency group comprised of all the suppression players
that provides a forum for local, county, state, and federal agencies and
emergency service organizations to share information, coordinate actions,
explore grant opportunities, and organize training efforts. Additionally,
there is an interagency Task Force for wildfire initial response, the
County Wildland Task Force, which falls under the auspices of the
Boulder County Sheriff's Department. The county also has its own Type
III helicopter air support, Rocky
Mountain Helitack, which is its own non-profit entity. Some issues
have arisen recently with jurisdictional disputes among some of the fire
suppression players in Boulder County. It is unclear whether and how these
challenges will be worked out.
The biggest challenge the county faces is how
to utilize the wood and slash from thinning projects. Marketing and utilization
of the small diameter wood remains a constant challenge to the entire
Front Range area. The biomass in Boulder County has little merchantable
value. Some of it can be used for post and pole fencing and firewood,
but much is not commercially viable. The bio-energy movement in Nederland
and potentially for Boulder County's new Parks and Open Space building
has great potential to deal with the slash resulting from the forest mitigation
work. There are also a number of other projects aimed at utilizing biomass
and residue from forest thinnings that are currently being discussed along
the Front Range.
Boulder County also has not focused explicitly
on restoration work, calling into question the sustainability of the on-going
vegetation fuel reduction project. Moving toward fire adapted ecosystems
has its challenges - urban and urbanizing environments are difficult for
prescribed burning due to air quality regulations and homeowner concerns.
Nonetheless, without fire to control re-growth, it is unclear how the
work can be maintained in the long run.