18 agencies come together to protect communities through Roaring Fork Valley Wildfire Collaborative

Grizzly Creek Fire_National Forest Foundation
Posted at 8:33 AM, Dec 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-16 10:33:33-05

CARBONDALE, Colo. — Eighteen local, county and federal agencies are coming together through the Roaring Fork Valley Wildfire Collaborative to create fire-resilient communities in Colorado.

The collaborative will work to mitigate wildfire risk in the Roaring Fork Valley in western Colorado while working across jurisdictions.

“Because jurisdictional boundaries create challenges to effective fire mitigation and management, close communication and coordination among agencies in the Roaring Fork Valley is critical,” said USDA Forest Service Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner.

The 18 groups in the Roaring Fork Valley Wildfire Collaborative include:

  • City of Aspen
  • Town of Snowmass Village
  • Town of Basalt
  • Town of Carbondale
  • City of Glenwood Springs
  • Town of Marble
  • Pitkin County
  • Eagle County
  • Garfield County
  • Gunnison County
  • Aspen Fire
  • Roaring Fork Fire & Rescue
  • Carbondale Fire
  • Glenwood Springs Fire
  • USDA Forest Service
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Colorado State Forest Service
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife

All of these agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, "that establishes the group as an informal collaborative organization working together to identify, prioritize, and implement wildfire mitigation work on a landscape scale in the Roaring Fork Valley," according to the USDA Forest Service.

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In addition to the 18 formal members, the collaborative also includes private business and nonprofit stakeholders. This entire group has been meeting since early 2022.

The informal members and nonprofits include the Aspen Institute, National Forest Foundation, Fire Adapted Colorado, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Aspen Valley Land Trust, Wilderness Workshop, Aspen Skiing Company & Sunlight Ski Area, Holy Cross Cattlemen's’ Association, Watershed Biodiversity Initiative, Middle Colorado Watershed Council, Roaring Fork Conservancy, 10th Mountain Huts, and TriColor Radio, Ruedi Water and Power, and Colorado Springs Utilities.

As evident in the Lake Christine and Grizzly Creek fires, a wildfire anywhere in the valley can impact all of the communities that call that area home, said Kevin Schorzman, director of the Town of Carbondale Public Works.

"This new collaborative will allow the entire valley to work together on meaningful landscape-scale projects that can help mitigate future wildfire spread to minimize those impacts," he continued.

While each agency and organization may have different wildfire-related goals, the Forest Service said they have all identified a set of common goals.

“Working together through the collaborative improves the communication and coordination among the many players in the Roaring Fork Valley, as well as provides better leverage for outside grants and funding,” said Rick Balentine, fire chief at Aspen Fire and co-chair of the collaborative.

Birch Barron, Eagle County emergency manager and chair of the collaborative’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, added that community engagement and inclusion is one of the collaborative's priorities.

“The collaborative seeks to empower all people in the Roaring Fork Valley to take action to reduce wildfire risk in their communities, to protect people, property, and places from wildfire loss," Barron said.