The Northern Colorado Fireshed Collaborative is officially launching to make forests more resilient to protect communities and keep water supplies reliable.
The group is forced to address wildfire risk through strategic and coordinated cross-boundary forest and fire management on the state’s northern Front Range. The Northern Colorado Fireshed Collaborative’s (NCFC) vision is that landscapes throughout Northern Colorado can support wildfires without causing long-term damage to watersheds and the communities they serve.
“We live in a fire-dependent landscape, but years of suppressing fires have left us with unhealthy forests that can fuel large, high-intensity wildfires as we saw in 2020,” said Ch’aska Huayhuaca, NCFC’s Coordinator and a Research Associate at the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute. “Prescribed fire is an important forest restoration tool that leverages a natural process to help foster ecosystem health and decrease fire risk to communities,” Ch’aska said.
The NCFC’s mission involves increasing the pace and scale of fuel reduction treatments (mechanical/hand trimming and pile burning and prescribed fire and strategically managed wildland fires across jurisdictional boundaries). NCFC will increase the effectiveness of wildfire mitigation treatments and improve watershed protection outcomes through planning and implementation collaboratively across federal, state, county, and private lands.
NCFC plans to treat 20 percent of the strategic priority areas within the first five years that they have identified using a combination of mechanical, manual, and managed fire methods. The location and size of treatments will be sufficient to reduce the risk of large contiguous areas of severe fire.
“A Fireshed is an area where social and ecological concerns regarding wildfire overlap and are intertwined,” said Jen Kovecses, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed and a member of the NCFC. “We need to think and act at the scale of a wildfire – at a ‘fireshed’-scale – if we are going to successfully bring fire back into our watershed management toolbox,” Jen said.
The NCFC consists of representatives from federal, state, and local natural resource agencies, non-profits, community groups, and researchers. Partners of NCFC include the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, The Nature Conservancy, City of Fort Collins, City of Greeley, Fort Collins and Big Thompson Conservation Districts, Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed, Big Thompson Watershed Coalition, Boulder Watershed Collective, Estes Valley Watershed Coalition, Lefthand Watershed Center, The Ember Alliance, Forest Stewards Guild, Larimer County, Colorado State Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Services, Peaks to People Water Fund and Rocky Mountain Research Station.
“The knowledge, experience, and passion of the partners within NCFC are making it possible to change how wildfire impacts the forests of northern Colorado,” said Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland Forest Supervisor Monte Williams. “The unprecedented fires of 2020 illustrated that wildfire knows no boundaries, and we must implement our work in the same manner,” Monte said.
For more information regarding the Northern Colorado Fireside Collaborative, visit www.nocofireshed.org.