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State awards grant for wildfire mitigation and training in La Plata County

La Plata Wildfire Mitigation.jpeg
Crystal Ashike
KSUT Tribal Radio
La Plata County owned land near Edgemont Highlands subdivision was selected to have significant wildfire mitigation done to the land as part of the newly developed Colorado strategic wildfire Action Program

An eight-week wildfire mitigation project in La Plata County will start in September.

The county was one of seven in Colorado that was a recipient of a state-awarded workforce development grant.

Land owned by La Plata County near Edgemont Highlands subdivision was selected to have significant wildfire mitigation done to the land as part of the newly developed Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program.

The program was created after the devastating 2020 wildfire season and was launched by the Polis administration through a bipartisan Senate bill last year.

Alison Lerch, the Wildfire Mitigation Program administrator for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director's office, says the workforce grant funding will go directly towards the Southwest Conservation Corps, who will be completing the mitigation efforts and give crew members an opportunity to learn field skills and how to minimize spread and severity of wildfires going forward.

Lerch says that those who received the grant were chosen based on life, property and infrastructure, and the impact mitigation efforts would have.

"We really focused our ranking and review on the proximity to an area of high risk in a wild land urban interface area. We used Colorado State Forest Service data for this to really pinpoint the location to this known data that we have. And so we did receive projects across the state that were maybe more forest health or watershed focused, that didn't always rise to the top, whereas the projects that rose to the top were the ones closest to communities and closest to impacting and reducing that wildfire risk to those communities," said Lerch.

La Plata County administration says that the parcel selected has a lot of overgrown fuels and these will be removed to reduce fire spread and restore the forest to a more resilient and healthy landscape.

The mitigated area will cover the 18 acres directly adjacent to Edgemont homes on land owned by the county.

The entire budget of the Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program is 17 and a half million dollars with over eight million dollars going towards landscape resilience investment that was created to have larger dollars invested across the strategic focus areas.

Lerch says La Plata County received almost a million dollars for landscape resilience to complete 571 acres of mitigation off County Road 240.

Wildfire mitigation efforts for Edgemont Highlands subdivision is expected to start next month.

This story from KSUT Tribal Radio was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.