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Summit County Government

Posted on: January 14, 2022

Summit County Forest Health and Fuels Cooperative Receives Chief’s Award

Summit County Forestry Project 02 (c) Colorado State Forest Service

Ceremony Recognizes Employees for Outstanding Contributions

Contact: Nicole Valentine, Director of Communications, Summit County Government

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit County Forest Health and Fuels Cooperative Agreement team was honored along with the Colorado Fourteeners Program, as recipients of the 2021 Chief’s Awards, the USDA Forest Service’s highest award. The virtual ceremony, held on Jan. 13, recognized employees who made outstanding contributions in 2021 to the agency’s mission and the communities served. 

The Chief’s Awards celebrate the accomplishments of individuals as well as partnerships throughout the United States who excel at meeting one of the agency’s four strategic goals: sustaining the nation’s forests and grasslands, delivering benefits to the public, applying knowledge globally, and excelling as a high-performing agency. 

“We are thrilled to accept the Chief’s Honor Award on behalf of the Dillon Ranger District and Summit County Fuels Reduction Cooperative,” said Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence. “We embraced the shared stewardship approach to reduce hazardous fuels conditions in the community, forming an extremely successful partnership between Summit County Government, U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service, Denver Water, and the Nature Conservancy with our shared goal of addressing forest health concerns. We are proud to receive this recognition of our substantial efforts.”

The Dillon Ranger District was severely impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic, resulting in high levels of tree mortality and hazardous fuels. The Summit County Forest Health and Fuels Cooperative Agreement was formed to address the needed fuels reduction work. The partnership included the Colorado State Forest Service, Denver Water, Summit County Government, The Nature Conservancy, and many other friends of the Dillon Ranger District. Together, they began work with Denver Water’s “From Forests to Faucets” program. Since then, the district has received nearly $6 million dollars from Denver Water to improve forest conditions. Additionally, a mill levy that was approved in 2019 will provide $1 million annually, through 2028, for multi-jurisdictional wildfire mitigation efforts. Numerous fuels treatments have been accomplished to better protect communities and cultural and natural resources from catastrophic wildfires. This collaborative effort is a model for community-based forest health and watershed management in Colorado and throughout the West.  

Team members of the Summit County Forest Health and Fuels Cooperative Agreement include Zach Wehr, Elisabeth Lawrence, Christina Burri, Catherine Schloegel, Adam Bianchi, Bill Jackson, Cary Green, Kathleen Gray, Clark Woolley, Scott Fitzwilliams, Lathan Johnson, Dan Schroder, Jim Curnutte, Ashley Garrison, Bill Wolf, and Ryan McNertney. Program partners include the Colorado State Forest Service, Summit County Board of County Commissioners, Denver Water, The Nature Conservancy, Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit, Colorado State University Extension, and Summit County Government.

“Embracing shared stewardship and an all-lands approach, the Colorado State Forest Service, U.S. Forest Service, Summit County Government, Denver Water and The Nature Conservancy are addressing critical management work across all lands to keep our communities and forests healthy and resilient,” said Zach Wehr, supervisory forester with the Colorado State Forest Service.

"This collaborative effort is a model and blueprint for community-based forest health and watershed management in Colorado and the West,” said Adam Bianchi, District Ranger, White River National Forest, Dillon Ranger District. “We are thrilled that this work is being recognized through the Chief's Honor Award, and we look forward to continuing to improve the health and resiliency of our forests in the future."

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