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Local landowners, environmental group team up on wildfire mitigation

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Feb 14 2014 08:15:34 PM CST
TELLER COUNTY, Colo. -

As another wildfire season approaches, different groups of people are teaming up to thin forests by removing excess trees and other fire fuels.

On Friday, a crew from the Coalition For The Upper South Platte, an environmental group based in Park County, worked on the privately-owned Ute Lakes Fishing Club west of Divide in Teller County.

The 10-member crew resumed a two-year fire mitigation project.  The crew gives lumber from surplus trees to the private landowners and burns piles of branches and other debris. 

"Snow on the ground makes burning safer right now," said Jeff Tienken, deputy operations director of CUSP.  "We can't burn during the summer, so we have to wait for the proper conditions."

Tienken says the CUSP crew moves from one project to the next, often working with private contractors.  He said grant money and contributions from landowners pay for the work.

The recent Waldo Canyon and Black Forest wildfires have made people more aware of the need for wildfire mitigation by creating defensible space around their properties, Tienken said, but mitigation in forests on private land is less common.

"(A) reduced fuel load (in forests) would reduce the opportunity for a crown fire to spread," he said.  "This forest is in a natural, healthier condition now."

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