Senator Bennet on Silverthorne Fuel Treatments- They Dodged a Bullet

Senator Bennet on Silverthorne Fuel Treatments- They Dodged a Bullet

This 3D rendering shows the boundaries of the Buffalo Mountain Fire and surrounding neighborhoods. The red line indicates the approximate fire perimeter. Image courtesy Summit County.

I realize that groups of scientists can, and do, write that “fuel treatments don’t work.” But this is pretty much a hard sell around many communities in Colorado. Basically the argument seems to be that you should believe this subset of scientists over your own experiences even if you aren’t familiar with the scientific literature that says otherwise.

Below is an example from Colorado Politics (a valuable resource- wish that all states had this quality and attention of reporting!). We can see a successful fuel treatment, collaboration, and what success looks like in dollars. Note that Senator Bennet is a Democratic Senator from Colorado. #resistpartisanization

SILVERTHORNE • Looking west to California, where a wildfire just exploded into the largest in state history, Colorado forest officials and politicians had a “there but for the grace of God (and a lot of hard work)” moment on the flanks of Buffalo Mountain above Silverthorne on Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet on Tuesday toured a 90-acre burn area on U.S. Forest Service land adjacent to two Silverthorne neighborhoods that very nearly erupted into a catastrophic loss of property June 12 before crews using slurry bombers, helicopters and boots on the ground beat back the flames. Nearly 1,400 homes were evacuated, but no properties were lost.

Bennet credits 900 acres of defensible space — basically tree clearing — that Forest Service officials completed in 2012 in conjunction with Summit County, Denver Water and the Colorado State Forest Service. The project cost more than $1 million and did not come without pushback.

“I was here in 2012, and this was very controversial to create this kind of firebreak, and you can see why,” Bennet said. “The community is used to living with trees right next to it, but there’s a safe way of doing it. This demonstrates that, and I hope everybody in this state and everybody in the West can see the benefits of this.”

Local and federal officials estimate that by spending $1 million on creating defensible space by clearing trees — an area where firefighters can safely work to combat a wildfire — more than $1 billion in property was saved in Silverthorne during the mid-June Buffalo fire.

“The Buffalo Fire may be the ultimate example of what our goals are when we do those fuel-reduction projects and those fuel breaks,” White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said. “Sometimes they don’t work out perfectly, but this one did, and the importance can’t be underestimated.”

Over the last 10 years, more than 12,000 acres of national forest have been treated by thinning and clearing in the Dillon Ranger District at a cost of more than $12 million. About a quarter of that cost has been picked up by Denver Water through the Forests to Faucets partnership.

That’s because wildfires devastate watersheds, causing pollution and erosion, and Summit County is one of the most critical sources of water for the Denver metro area. Summit County also has contributed funding as Forest Service mitigation resources dwindled in recent years.

Perhaps this is “economic interests” (homes, businesses, watersheds) triumphing over “ecological interests” but I don’t think that that would fly as a narrative in Silverthorne.


via A New Century of Forest Planning

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