Jefferson CD helps educate policymakers on wildfire funding needs

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The Jefferson Conservation District (JCD) is putting a face on forest conservation issues in Colorado by testifying before state legislators and showing them the benefits of continuing to fund program grants at the state level.

In March – the third time in the past five years – district staff, landowners and Colorado Association of Conservation Districts’ (CACD) lobbyist Brett Moore (pictured far left) attended a House Rural Affairs and Agriculture hearing on House Bill 19-1006 (Wildfire Mitigation [in] Wildland-Urban Interface Areas), which provides state funding for grants to agencies like JCD for wildfire mitigation projects on private lands. The committee approved and forwarded the bill, and it has since become law.

“These grants are critically important to getting forest conservation work done on the ground,” JCD Director Garrett Stephens said. “Most of the testimony these legislators hear is from agency officials and lobbyists, so it was especially compelling for us to bring private landowners to share their perspective.”

Pictured from left to right: CACD Lobbyist Brett Moore, JCD landowners Jeff Downing, Patti Von Vihl, Bill Von Vihl, JCD Forester Samatha Delfing.

Property owners Bill and Patti Von Vihl (pictured second from left) also testified, saying that without the assistance from JCD, they and their neighbors would not have been able to afford and manage a mitigation/restoration project that spans 18 landowners and 250 treated acres – a project that JCD just finished this summer.

The bill provides the continuation of an annual state grant that funds various wildfire mitigation and forest restoration across the state. This fiscal year, it will fund $1 million worth of projects.

“Non-federal sources of match are hard to come by,” Stephens said. “That’s why this state grant is important to us.”

In the past six years, JCD has treated nearly 1,000 acres through various projects, using a total of about $1.2 million in state grants under this type of legislation, Stephens said.

“Forestry work on Colorado’s Front Range is very expensive, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 per acre; this is largely due to our steep, rocky terrain and the low quality of wood being harvested,” Stephens said. “Without grants and other farm bill incentives from partners like the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), these projects would not be possible.”

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Tags: Forestry, wildfire

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