Custer County is framed around the Wet Mountain Valley, including major parts of the Sangre de Cristo and the Wet Mountains of south-central Colorado. Its forests are a highly valued component of the mountain environment, which has seen steady changes in increased wildland residential use over the past two decades. The interface of public wildlands, primarily National Forests, has combined with increasing wildfire fuel buildup to create massive wildfire hazards to most of the County - and destructive, dangerous wildfires have steadily been increasing in and near the County.
The Custer County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) was organized to study countywide wildfire hazards and risks, and to determine community priorities and strategies for action. Statistical and map-based wildfire hazard rating systems, along with public and agency collaboration and input, were used to identify countywide problems and two high priority, large "Landscape Neighborhoods" on the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) for initial fuel mitigation action. These are Alvarado and Lake Isabel. However, it is important to note that all small-parcel forested areas of the county were found to be high-risk and need urgent attention.
Extensive public meetings and reviews of the research data, maps, and Draft CWPP formed a two-year educational process of what is at stake and what to do. This led to detailed discussion of individual
landowner and community priorities and strategies for viewing the problem, and finally to some practical means of action.
Here are the recommendations of the Custer County CWPP Action Plan for 2008:
Create a charter and appoint a Custer County CWPP Commission that includes community leaders, forest practitioners, and local fire and government representatives, in order to pursue ongoing funding and build community consensus for continued proactive implementation of the CWPP. The Commission will research and study the Forest Improvement District Act and options of organizing as such a District, as a new 501c3 nonprofit or affiliate of an existing nonprofit
organization, as a department of County government, or otherwise. The Commission will also research/ study state and county regulations, private landowner incentives, self-sustaining economic programs, collaboration with federal/state agencies, and other CWPP implementation ideas to determine the most advantageous structure and goals for the Custer County CWPP Commission. Recommendations about a permanent organization will be made to the County Commissioners by the end of 2008.
Seek grant funding for the County from the BLM per the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, and from the U.S. Forest Service, by a specific proposal to initiate
the following in 2008:
Activate a County CWPP Office, by contract or by function in the Zoning Office, for supporting mailings, information, low-cost
high-benefit education, and coordinating CWPP action (b-f).
Organize the GIS database and maps, specifically targeting the two priority Landscape Neighborhoods (Alvarado and San Isabel) and
enhancing countywide capabilities.
Support/cost-share writing two specific targeted priority Neighborhood CWPP's by Fall 2008.
Start cost-share demonstration projects in the above two priority areas, in collaboration with private landowners, volunteers, U. S. Forest Service adjacent lands, Colorado State Forest Service, and private forestry companies, for initial projects starting in 2008 and completing in 2009 and for program continuation in other years.
Organize specific educational projects, including bi-annual mailings with other County mailings, information packets, creation of
contractor lists, free slash and biomass use days/promotions at the Landfill, special public events, educational displays in the community, regular newspaper articles, achievement recognition, low-cost economic incentives, and more.
Organize fire hazard mitigation under and along the main power line to Wet Mountain Valley.
Organize sessions for public comment on the voluntary and regulatory options available to Custer County to create CWPP awareness
and to gauge community support and reaction.