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Colorado getting $35M in federal funds for wildfire mitigation on Front Range

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(The Center Square) – Colorado is set to get $35 million in federal dollars to mitigate wildfires on the Front Range.

The funding is part of $500 million made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the funding on Tuesday for the Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy. The project is focused on reducing wildfire risk to communities, critical infrastructure and natural resources.

“Our goal in launching the Wildfire Crisis Strategy was to safeguard communities and the resources they depend on by increasing fuels treatments over time, promoting community readiness, and supporting postfire recovery and restoration,” a 2023 USDA report stated. “To accomplish this, we are using all funding sources, including existing efforts like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, as well as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. We are also working closely with partners on activities ranging from collaborative planning and prioritization to capacity building, on-the-ground improvements and monitoring success.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and co-chair of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, issued a joint release praising the federal money and efforts after several recent fires on the Front Range.

“As the Representative for much of the region, I am excited to see investments making their way to our state to reduce the risk of wildfires to our families, our towns and our lands,” Neguse said. “I am committed to continuing to advocate for all of our Colorado communities, including those on the Western Slope, ensuring they receive the resources they need to prepare for this crisis.”

Recent wildfires that have impacted Front Range communities include the Marshall, Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires, Neguse noted. The Marshall Fire in Boulder County was the most destructive in state history, damaging over 1,000 buildings at an estimated $2 billion cost.

Colorado’s Front Range is one of 21 landscapes designated as a priority for the USDA as the overall project will receive approximately $400 million in federal funding.

“High-risk firesheds are large forested landscapes and rangelands where there is a high likelihood that an ignition could expose homes, communities and infrastructure to destructive wildfire” are defined by the USDA as high-priority areas, according to the report. “Firesheds, typically about 250,000 acres in size, are mapped to match the scale of community exposure to wildfire.”

The remaining $100 million will be allocated through a competitive internal process under the USDA’s Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program. The 21 landscapes are excluded.

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