Castle Pines residents Chris and Jaclynn Peterson took extensive fire mitigation measures to remove dead and diseased trees from their 200-acre property. With the help of outside agencies, the Petersons were able to mitigate nearly all their property and have half of their expenses paid for.
By Elizabeth Wood West; photos courtesy of Chris and Jaclynn Peterson
Castle Pines Village residents Chris and Jaclynn Peterson recently received Douglas County Conservation District’s 2013 “Conservationist of the Year” award as a result of the couple’s extensive fire mitigation and land stewardship efforts for their 200-acre property.
The Peterson’s property is located in the foothills west of Sedalia. It was densely-forested and suffered from dwarf mistletoe, IPS and mountain pine beetle damage, Tussock moth infestations, and dangerous levels of ladder fuels (shrubs and low branches that allow wildfire to reach the tree canopy from the ground) along its moderately steep slopes, putting the property at high risk for wildfire damage.
Recognizing the fire danger, the Petersons made the decision to undertake the slow, painstaking process of removing the dead, diseased trees and low-lying combustible undergrowth by themselves. After eight years of tackling fire mitigation measures alone, the Petersons contacted the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) and hired Keith Worley, a local forester/arborist/land development consultant, for help. Worley developed a forest management plan designed to minimize the fire risk and restore the health of their property.
A representative from the CSFS visited the Peterson’s property, explained the CSFS’s Cost-Share Grant Program (CSGP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and recommended they apply for both programs. To qualify for these programs, landowners must agree to mitigate their property according to specific criteria, in exchange for financial assistance.
With the guidance of the CSFS and Worley, the Petersons hired several contractors that specialized in this type of work; together, they were able to mitigate nearly 180 acres, with the exception of riparian zones (distinctive stream or watercourse areas). Subsequently, they received financial assistance for up to half of the fire mitigation costs.
The Peterson’s said, “We are so honored and humbled to receive this award. The woods have become our passion and we hope that we are an inspiration to others. We have seen such an increase in quantity and diversity of both plants and animals, reduced our risk of wildfire, protected healthy trees from infection, and improved the overall tree vigor and forest health. Since the forest was dense, diseased, and unhealthy, fire would have been catastrophic. It would have burned too hot, sterilized the soil, contributed to air pollution, and contaminated the watershed. Now, if we have a fire, it will move through quickly and the land will recover in a year or two instead of a decade or two. Our goal is to continue to improve the health and vigor of the forest, and enjoy the solace it provides.”
For more information, contact the Douglas County Conservation District at 303-688-3042 ext. 100 or visit www.dcconservation.com. Contact the Colorado State Forest Service at http://csfs.colostate.edu/. To contact Keith Worley, call 303-681-2492 or e-mail.