SEPTEMBER 2007 AND Spring 2008 Custer County Community Wildfire Protection Plan
SUMMARY – summary of findings and conclusions
Custer County is framed around the Wet
Mountain Valley, including major parts of the Sangre de Cristo and the Wet
Mountains of south-central Colorado. Its
forests are a highly valued component of the mountain environment, which has
seen steady changes in increased wildland residential use over the past two
decades. The interface of public
wildlands, primarily National Forests, has combined with increasing wildfire
fuel buildup to create massive wildfire hazards to most of the County – and
destructive, dangerous wildfires have steadily been increasing in and near the
The Custer County Community Wildfire
Protection Plan (CWPP) was organized to study countywide wildfire hazards and
risks, and to determine community priorities and strategies for action. Statistical and map-based wildfire hazard
rating systems, along with public and agency collaboration and input, were used
to identify countywide problems and two high priority, large “Landscape
Neighborhoods” on the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) for initial fuel
mitigation action. These are Alvarado
and Lake Isabel. However, it is important to note that all small-parcel
forested areas of the county were found to be high-risk and need urgent
Extensive public meetings and reviews of the
research data, maps, and Draft CWPP formed a two-year educational process of
what is at stake and what to do. This led to detailed discussion of individual
landowner and community priorities and strategies for viewing the problem, and
finally to some practical means of action.
Here are the recommendations of the Custer
County CWPP Action Plan for 2008:
charter and appoint a Custer County CWPP Commission that includes
community leaders, forest practitioners, and local fire and government
representatives, in order to pursue ongoing funding and build community
consensus for continued proactive implementation of the CWPP. The Commission will research and study
the Forest Improvement District Act and options of organizing as such a
District, as a new 501c3 nonprofit or affiliate of an existing nonprofit
organization, as a department of County government, or otherwise. The Commission will also research/ study
state and county regulations, private landowner incentives,
self-sustaining economic programs, collaboration with federal/state
agencies, and other CWPP implementation ideas to determine the most
advantageous structure and goals for the Custer County CWPP Commission.
Recommendations about a permanent organization will be made to the County
Commissioners by the end of 2008.
funding for the County from the BLM per the Healthy Forests Restoration
Act, and from the U.S. Forest Service, by a specific proposal to initiate
the following in 2008:
Activate a County CWPP Office, by contract or by function in the
Zoning Office, for supporting mailings, information, low-cost
high-benefit education, and coordinating CWPP action (b-f).
Organize the GIS database and maps, specifically targeting the
two priority Landscape Neighborhoods (Alvarado and San Isabel) and
enhancing countywide capabilities.
Support/cost-share writing two specific targeted priority
Neighborhood CWPP’s by Fall 2008.
Start cost-share demonstration projects in the above two priority
areas, in collaboration with private landowners, volunteers, U. S. Forest
Service adjacent lands, Colorado State Forest Service, and private
forestry companies, for initial projects starting in 2008 and completing
in 2009 and for program continuation in other years.
Organize specific educational projects, including bi-annual
mailings with other County mailings, information packets, creation of
contractor lists, free slash and biomass use days/promotions at the
Landfill, special public events, educational displays in the community,
regular newspaper articles, achievement recognition, low-cost economic
incentives, and more.
Organize fire hazard mitigation under and along the main power
line to Wet Mountain Valley.
Organize sessions for public comment on the voluntary and
regulatory options available to Custer County to create CWPP awareness
and to gauge community support and reaction.