Jefferson  County Case Study
Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression Reduce Hazardous FuelsRestore Fire Adapted Ecosystems Promote Community AssistanceSummary


WGA Goal - Promote Community Assistance

Actions to meet goal

  • Reduce losses to communities from wildland fire
  • Promote markets for traditionally underutilized wood
  • Promote opportunities to continue and enhance sustainable livestock grazing as part of restoration strategies
  • Increase incentives for private landowners to address defensible space and fuels management needs on private property
  • Promote local government incentives through fire-sensitive land use planning

Jefferson County Cost Share Programs

Homeowners in Jefferson County can apply for the defensible space program in two ways: through the county Office of Emergency Management (OEM) or through State Forestry. The county uses the same treatment prescription as State Forestry (6.302). The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist runs the county program and uses State Forestry money to fund the program. First come, first served is the primary way they have been running the program at the county level. The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist tries to focus work in a geographic area to the degree possible, but he can't turn anyone away. He can focus community fire planning activities and that can have an impact on a group of people applying for the defensible space program. He also follows up on contacts provided by State Forestry. The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist refers homeowners to a few primary contractors including Bruce Coulter, retired from CSFS, Bjorn Dahl, retired USFS, Joe Snyder with Evergreen Tree Consultants, and Chris White from the Anchor Point Group. These are the four certified contractors who can do regulatory work for the County. In FY2002, Jefferson County Emergency Management made $50,000 available from the CSFS Fuels Treatment Program for cost-share opportunities for the creation of defensible space. This money funded 100 home inspections and the creation of 31 defensible spaces. In FY2003 $75,000 was available for defensible space cost share and 50-75 homes were anticipated to be treated with this cost-share money.

CSFS Cost Share Programs

CSFS has two cost share programs. First, CSFS makes money available to counties, communities or neighborhood associations that apply for multiple defensible spaces or common fuel breaks and slash treatment programs. The grant requests go to the District offices where they are compiled and sent to the State office. The State office ranks them and then submits them to the Western States competition. Then the selected grants are forwarded to the USFS and the USFS notifies CSFS once funding becomes available.

Treated property

Second, Golden District has an individual defensible space program for homeowners: $9,202 was paid out in 2002 and $16,785was paid out in 2003 but they had $43,363 available and are hoping to utilize those funds in 2004. In 2002 CSFS-Golden District created 21 defensible spaces through their cost share program and 29 in 2003. These defensible space grants are available on a 50/50 cost-share basis. Funding through this program goes to existing homeowners. In 2002 there was great interest in doing wildfire mitigation work and CSFS had over 200 people on a waiting list. Everyone on the list was called and given an opportunity to apply for the 2003 pool of funding.

Untreated property picture

CSFS reimburses homeowners, counties and homeowner’s associations for $1,200 per homesite for defensible space, $200 per acre for forest thinning, $75 per acre for tree pruning, $200 per acre for interface broadcast burning and $100-300 per acre for slash disposal depending on whether it is being burned chipped or hauled. They also reimburse at $1,000 per acre for fuel breaks. When the work is completed, the homeowner notifies CSFS and they go out and conduct a final inspection. The homeowners submit their receipts and then fill out the paperwork. CSFS submits this to headquarters in Ft. Collins and reimbursement can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.

CSFS prioritizes applications from counties, communities, neighborhood associations and individual homeowners based on the level of organizational activity in a given area. Homeowner associations are given priority if they approach the Golden District and are already organized and 10% of their homeowners are willing to create defensible spaces to CSFS standards. However, homeowners associations have not been very responsive. Only five homeowner associations requested grant packages and only one of those applied. About $4500 of FY03 funding still exists because they can't find willing homeowners to participate in the program.


Forest Management and Thinning Contracting Businesses

Joe Snyder manages and owns Evergreen Forest Management, which is comprised of Evergreen Tree Consultants and Evergreen Wildfire Consultants. Evergreen Forest Management does large-scale implementation, insect disease surveys, and forest management plans for sites of 1-1,500 acres and have 4-6 employees. Evergreen Forest Management is unique because of its wide range of activities. "I always want to be involved in the management planning side of things, whether it's traditional forest management plans, fire management plans, wildland urban interface planning, public education; I want to have that component. I would consider us to be a very unique hybrid [company]". Snyder spends most of his time on consulting forestry and forestry management and has crews that do the implementation. Private landowners are his main clients. The cutting work by Evergreen Forest Management is exclusively by chain saw, rubber tire skidder, tractor grapple, whole tree chipper and dump truck. Costs range from $1,500 to $3,000 per acre for treatment depending on the terrain.

Snyder helps with the regulatory markings for new construction in the county. Snyder implements the 6.302 standard for the new development. The fee for the regulatory marking is paid by the homeowner. Snyder also does prescription burning, but only on a limited basis. "The problem with prescription burning is that the money traditionally hasn't been there and the treatment per acre money is not very high, so I don't think from the private level it makes it worthwhile. And as you might imagine it is a huge liability issue". Snyder does prescribed fire training in the county and sometimes can position a burn as a training exercise. Then the local fire agency or district takes responsibility for the burn, making it financially feasible.

Tree Musketeers, owned by Jason Bullis, is a small thinning contract business. Bullis is on the contractor's contact list for CSFS. He gets calls to do private property work and at peak times he can have two other employees working for him. In 2002, he treated 80-85 acres and the biggest job was 27 acres. In 2002, about 25% of Bullis' business was for the regulatory program and 60-75% of that was funded through the county grant program. Bullis will take large diameter trees to the mill, but generally mills don't like trees that come from around homes because they have too many nails in them. Aspen is taken to furniture places like TEC Woodsmithing, Medicine Wolf or Lakewood Furniture. If the customer does not want the firewood, and it will fit through the chipper, generally it is chipped. It costs anywhere from $1,500-3,500 to treat an acre of property, depending on the size and other attributes.

Everlasting pictureDarwin and Cindy Babcock are the owners and operators of Everlasting Tree Services. They treat 100% private landowners, and about 3-4% is cost share work. 50% of their work is on new property or rebuilds and 50% is tree service. There are five employees. Pikes Peak Lumber is a portable mill company that comes on site. Everlasting works with Pikes Peakon their treatment sites to salvage everything from 6 inches in diameter and up. PPikes Peak pictureikes Peak uses their portable mill and so only finished products are taken off the sites. Utilizing the lumber enables Everlasting Landscapes to save $10,000 per year in hauling costs. Defensible space treatments cost $2,500-3,500 per acre, depending on slope.

Competition is getting stiffer among all the operators in Jefferson County and there is growing concern about fly-by-night operators. Utilization of materials coming off treated property is another great concern. According to Snyder, "Biomass disposal/utilization is the number one problem facing every small contractor. If you talk to thinning contractors that is their number one problem". Contractors can't sell small diameter timber and they have to deck the logs so people can drive up, cut it and put it in a truck. Consequently utilization is very limited. "We will make a decision on some projects that everything that's 18 inches and below is chipped."

Biomass Utilization

Jefferson County, national forest managers,and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden are exploring a plan that would generate electricity with biomass. A semi-mobile facility, which could be placed in the forest, would generate 3-5 MW, enough for 5,000 households. Jefferson County Commissioner, Rick Sheehan, is spearheading the project. Federal and state agencies, Xcel Energy and the governor's office are considering a feasibility study, which would cost about $60,000. If the project is feasible and if federal grants are available, the first biomass generator could be generating power in late 2004 or 2005. In the summer of 2003, it appeared that a Memorandum of Understanding would be signed between Jefferson County USFS, CSFS, NREL, Xcel Energy, DOI, Colorado Office of Energy Management and Conservation, and DOE to undertake a feasibility study and pilot project. Each partner was asked to contribute a minimum of $5,000 to the project. A 3-megawatt semi-portable plant could consume all dry mass from thinning projects on 5,200 acres per year.

There are two small saw mills in Jefferson County, a number of firewood producers and some specialty wood product industries that are manufacturing furniture, posts and beams, and interior decorative wood specially used for home construction such as mantel pieces. The specialty furniture operations are by TEC Woodsmithing and David Greist. Wood also is bundled up for firewood and sold at the 7-11 stores by United Wood Products and Sweetman Enterprises, but these are non-Jefferson County operations.

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Copyright©2003 Toddi A. Steelman and North Carolina State University

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