Looking at FAC in the Field
Authors: Molly Mowery
As part of our FAC Learning Network annual workshop this month, participants had the opportunity to get out into the field and tour areas near Colorado Springs. These places highlighted past wildfires in the Pikes Peak region, including the Waldo Canyon, High Meadow, Buffalo Creek, Black Forest and Hayman Fires. The focus of the field tour, however, was to emphasize areas where mitigation and restoration work are reducing future wildland fire impacts to communities and landscapes. Our group benefited from seeing firsthand the surrounding wildland-urban interface communities, ongoing post-fire issues facing communities from flooding and land movement, and opportunities and challenges of fuel treatments in the forest and neighborhoods.
The field tour was hosted and facilitated by the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) – one of the FAC Learning Network hubs – and featured speakers from various federal, state, county and nonprofit organizations. The first stop showcased a CUSP project in the Waldo Canyon burn area where a series of environmentally sound and cohesive containment and diversion structures had been built to minimize the impacts of flooding and heavy debris flows which have been occurring since the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and can be expected in the years to come.
The second stop highlighted the Forest Edge community, a typical neighborhood located in Woodland Park that is densely populated, forested and adjacent to public lands. Homeowners in this high-risk community have been doing mitigation work consisting of structure improvements and neighborhood thinning and slash removal projects for a number of years. Key insights from the Woodland Park Friends of Forest Edge, a community group working to build safer neighborhoods, emphasized that wildfire risk reduction is a journey not a destination, and providing a home demonstration site as a best practice example helps others understand the benefits of mitigation.
Our group also toured an area known as the Sourdough Ranch, a privately owned 560-acre parcel on the outskirts of Woodland Park in Teller County. CUSP collaborated with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to help restore 200 acres of forest. The goals of the project included hazardous fuel reduction, enhanced wildlife habitat, and improved forest health.
Finally, we wrapped up at the Manitou Experimental Forest, where we ate lunch and tied together concepts related to mitigation and forest restoration. We were fortunate to have media coverage at multiple stops from both the Colorado Springs Gazette and local news Channel 13 (KRDO). The tour provided multiple opportunities to share lessons learned on the ground, and facilitated peer-to-peer learning and sharing among FAC & Fire Learning Network participants.