SUMMIT COUNTY – The U.S. Forest Service recognized the work of partners in Summit County to reduce wildfire fuels and improve forest health with its highest award.

Summit County fuels reduction projectThe Summit County Forest Health and Fuels Cooperative Agreement team received a 2021 Chief’s Honor award during a virtual ceremony held Jan. 13, 2022. The team was one of 19 groups from across the United States to receive a Chief’s Honor award, which recognizes USFS staff and partnerships that made outstanding contributions to the agency’s mission and the communities they serve.

“Embracing shared stewardship and an all-lands approach, the Colorado State Forest Service, U.S. Forest Service, Summit County Government, Denver Water and The Nature Conservancy are addressing critical management work across all lands to keep our communities and forests healthy and resilient,” said Zach Wehr, supervisory forester with the CSFS. Along with those mentioned by Wehr, the team includes the Summit County Board of County Commissioners, Denver Water, Colorado State University Extension and the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit.

Collaborative Fuels Reduction

The mountain pine beetle epidemic severely impacted forests in Summit County, leaving forests thick with beetle-killed trees and hazardous fuels. To address this buildup of wildfire fuels, the Summit County Forest Health and Fuels Cooperative Agreement formed with the goal of improving cross-boundary forest health through collaborative fuels reduction work.

Summit County fuels reduction project sceneTogether, the partners began working with Denver Water’s From Forests to Faucets program. Since then, the Dillon Ranger District has received nearly $6 million from Denver Water to improve forest conditions. Additionally, a mill levy that was approved in 2019 will provide $1 million annually, through 2028, for multi-jurisdictional wildfire mitigation efforts.

With this funding, the partners have implemented many fuels reduction projects over the past several years to protect communities and cultural and natural resources from severe wildfires.

“This collaborative effort is a model and blueprint for community-based forest health and watershed management in Colorado and the West,” said Adam Bianchi, district ranger with the Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest. “We are thrilled that this work is being recognized through the Chief’s Honor award, and we look forward to continuing to improve the health and resiliency of our forests in the future.”

“We embraced the shared stewardship approach to reduce hazardous fuels conditions in the community, forming an extremely successful partnership,” said Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence. “We are proud to receive this recognition of our substantial efforts.”

Learn more about an active fuels reduction project in Summit County.