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Durango receives federal support for fire mitigation

Money will support work in high-risk areas
The city of Durango has accepted $87,500 in federal funding for fire mitigation this year around city limits.

The city of Durango accepted $87,500 in federal funding Tuesday to help pay for fire mitigation efforts this year in the most high-risk areas of the city.

The city, along with its partners in the Fire Adapted Durango Partnership, has taken stock of its wildfire readiness and pinpointed the areas of highest concern: 6 miles of city boundary land. The Bureau of Land Management provided the grant as part of the regional effort to coordinate fire mitigation work around Durango.

“This is an effort that’s going to take everyone in our community. It’s going to take all of the municipalities. It’s going to take the county,” said Ian Barrett, a BLM fire management specialist, during a City Council meeting this week. “It’s going to take the BLM and other federal partners to really help Durango and the surrounding area have a good outcome from wildfire.”

The grant, which the City Council unanimously accepted Tuesday, has a four-year duration. This year, the city will receive $87,500. The award can be modified each year for up to $250,000, depending on the availability of funding, city staff members said.

In 2021, the grant will support mitigation work along sections of city-owned boundary land generally located at Horse Gulch, Overend Mountain Park and Dalla Mountain Park. The city aims to complete all 6 miles within the year, staff members said.

“Last year was definitely a formation year if you will. There were some hard lessons learned. Those are common when you start these programs,” Barrett said. “I do believe they’re poised to be able to execute that (project).”

The BLM is also exploring opportunities to develop an agreement with Durango that would allow it to conduct cross-border fire mitigation on city land at no cost to the city.

“Under the good neighbor authority, assuming that we’ve met all the regulations and federal planning requirements, we can eventually extend treatment across boundaries or vice versa,” Barrett said. “It would improve the process and cohesiveness of these improvements.”

The BLM is the largest adjacent landowner to city-owned open space, managing 23,000 acres in La Plata County.

The agency has conducted extensive fuels treatment over the last 20 years, particularly around Animas City Mountain, Grandview Ridge and Perins Peak State Wildlife Area.

In a recent environmental assessment, the BLM identified 5,800 acres of previously treated land that would be eligible for retreatment.

The Colorado State Forest Service, Durango Fire Protection District, Wildfire Adapted Partnership, La Plata County, La Plata Electric Association, private landowners and San Juan National Forest are also involved in managing lands around Durango.

smullane@durangoherald.com

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