Last year, historic wildfires were an unfortunate reminder to Coloradans that many forested areas here remain unhealthy and fire-prone. Currently, several wildfires are actively burning in Colorado, creating public health, safety, economic and other issues, while the impacts of the 2020 wildfires, including deadly and disruptive mudslides, are wreaking havoc in the state.

FRWRM chipping project
Residents of Falls Creek Ranch in Durango used 2019 grant funds to purchase a chipper to chip slash from wildfire mitigation work. Photo courtesy of Falls Creek Ranch HOA

The occurrence of wildfire in Colorado’s forests is inevitable, including in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) where millions of Coloradans live. To help residents and communities prepare for wildfire and improve the health of our forests, the State of Colorado offers funding assistance to municipalities, local fire departments, HOAs and others through the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation (FRWRM) grant program, which is administered by the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS).

Today, Governor Jared Polis announced awards for the 2021 FRWRM grant cycle. In total, the CSFS will award roughly $6.4 million to 42 applicants from 25 counties across Colorado.

“We are so excited to make this important investment in decreasing fire risk and improving forest health. Ongoing drought has increased fire risk in many parts of our state and the increased funds from these forest health grants can immediately go into projects on the ground to assist communities in need while also providing a boost to local economies,” said Governor Jared Polis. “I appreciate the Colorado State Forest Service staff and all those involved for their work to get this historic investment to where it is urgently needed across our state.”

Boost in Funding

During the spring legislative session, to address the growing threat of wildfire in Colorado, Governor Polis signed SB21-054 that appropriated $6 million to the FRWRM program for this grant cycle and SB21-205 that both increased and stabilized funds up to $8 million for the FRWRM program in years to come. The funding for this round of FRWRM awards was derived from these two bills and will help Coloradans:

  • Build community capacity to address wildfire
  • Reduce the risk of wildfire to people, property and infrastructure
  • Promote forest health and restoration
  • Encourage the use of wood from forest health and fuels reduction projects

“I applaud Governor Polis and our state legislators for recognizing the urgency to make additional funds available to address wildfire risk and other forest health issues,” said Susan Matthews, interim state forester and director of the CSFS. “The Colorado State Forest Service is getting those funds into the hands of local communities to get work done on the ground and prepare themselves for wildfire. Now more than ever, it’s important for communities to take action to reduce their fire risk – and this funding gives a much-needed boost to those without the means to do so on their own.”

A FRWRM project in Douglas County
The Keene Ranch community southwest of Castle Rock used 2018 grant funds to assess and reduce wildfire risk to residents’ homes and properties. These before-and-after photos show how dense Gambel oak was cleared to improve defensible space around a home. Photos courtesy of Keene Ranch HOA

Impact Across Colorado

Projects awarded FRWRM funds during this cycle are located in Alamosa, Archuleta, Boulder, Chaffee, Clear Creek, Custer, Douglas, El Paso, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Huerfano, Jefferson, La Plata, Larimer, Las Animas, Mesa, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, Park, Pueblo, Routt, San Miguel and Teller counties in Colorado. Of the 42 projects receiving funding, 12 are located in areas with fewer economic resources.

2021 FRWRM Grant Program Awards

“Thanks to the Governor’s leadership and legislative leaders’ support, Colorado is slated to significantly boost our forest mitigation work in the coming years to get many needed on the ground projects moving,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Healthy forests are everyone’s responsibility. These state grants awarded today will leverage millions from local governments, private landowners, utilities and others, and support the collaboration we need. I’m proud of all of the Coloradans who are stepping up to make their communities safer and restore our forests.”

The CSFS will announce the next round of funding assistance through the FRWRM grant program in summer of 2022. For information about the program, visit csfs.colostate.edu/funding-assistance.

FRWRM project in Fourmile Canyon
The Sunshine Fire Protection District used 2017 grant funds to create a fuelbreak and reduce wildfire risk to residents in Fourmile Canyon outside Boulder. Photo courtesy of Sunshine Fire Protection District