Funding available for projects addressing forest health, wildfire risk

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    By Teddy Parker-Renga
    Colorado State Forest Service

    Last year, historic wildfires were an unfortunate reminder to Coloradans that many forested areas here remain unhealthy and fire-prone. The occurrence of fire in natural settings is inevitable, including in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) where millions of Coloradans live.

    For those interested in taking action, but who have lacked the financial means, funding is now available to help reduce wildfire risk through Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation (FRWRM) grants.

    The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) announced recently that it is accepting proposals for FRWRM grants from Colorado HOAs, community groups, local governments, fire protection districts, utilities and nonprofit organizations seeking funding to improve forest health, conduct forest restoration and reduce wildfire risk on nonfederal land in the state.

    In March, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill (SB21-054) to transfer $6 million from the General Fund to the FRWRM grant program to address wildfire risk in Colorado. Approximately $6 million in total funding is available, and grant awards are available up to $1 million during this FRWRM grant cycle.

    “This grant program is a critical source of funding to address wildfire risk and other forest health issues on a local level,” said Mike Lester, state forester and director of the CSFS. “I applaud Governor Polis and our state legislators for recognizing the urgency to make additional funds available now to community groups, fire districts and others to get this important work done on the ground. Last year’s historic wildfires in Colorado reminded us how much we need our forests — and what can happen if we don’t invest in improving forest health. More grant-funded projects will mean more communities and residents will be better protected from wildfires.”

    Reduce risk to
    property, infrastructure, water supplies

    The FRWRM program helps fund projects that strategically reduce the potential wildfire risk to property, infrastructure and water supplies and that promote forest health through scientifically based forestry practices. The competitive grant program is designed to reduce risk to people and property in the WUI and support long-term ecological restoration. 

    Applications must not only promote forest health and address the reduction of hazardous fuels that could fuel a wildfire — such as trees and brush near homes — but also utilize wood products derived from forest management efforts.

    The state can fund up to 50 or 75 percent of the cost of each awarded project; grant recipients are required to match at least 50 or 25 percent of the total project cost through cash or in-kind contributions, depending on whether the project location falls within an area of “fewer economic resources.” 

    Projects can be located on private, state, county or municipal forestlands. Program funds also are allowable to fund the purchase of equipment that directly supports and expands opportunities to reduce hazardous fuels. Program funds may be used for forest restoration, but are not part of post-fire rehabilitation activities.

    Applicants must coordinate proposed projects with relevant county officials to ensure consistency with county-level wildfire risk reduction planning. Follow-up monitoring also is a necessary component of this grant program to help demonstrate the relative efficacy of various treatments and the utility of grant resources. The CSFS will work with successful project applicants to conduct project monitoring and conduct site visits to assess effectiveness and completion of projects.

    Additional emphasis will be given to projects that: are identified through a community-based collaborative process, such as a Community Wildfire Protection Plan; are implemented strategically across land ownership boundaries; are conducted within a priority area identified in the 2020 Colorado Forest Action Plan; utilize the labor of an accredited Colorado youth or veterans corps organization; and include forest treatments that result in the protection of water supplies.

    Application deadline

    Applications must be submitted electronically to local CSFS field offices by 5 p.m. on May 19. A technical advisory panel convened by the CSFS will review project applications and make funding recommendations. The CSFS will then notify successful applicants this summer.

    Applications and additional information about the FRWRM Grant Program are available at CSFS field offices and online at csfs.colostate.edu/funding-assistance.