COLORADO SPRINGS — Officials from the Pikes Peak region addressed growing wildfire concerns and outlined plans for the future of forests during Monday night's State of the Outdoors meeting in Colorado Springs.
Local leaders from the United States Forest Service, Trails, Open Space and Parks Programs (TOPS), and the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance (PPORA) discussed the health of local forests and addressed wildfire risk. Carl Bauer, the District Ranger of Pikes Peak Ranger District presented a five-year Wildfire Crisis Strategy plan including four times more prescribed burns for national forest land.
"This is something that we have never done in my career, actually gone to this amount of effort to put together a two to five-year plan for field reduction and prescribed fire," said Bauer.
He said over the past five years, five million people along Colorado's Front Range have been affected by fires. Bauer said the Colorado Front Range is one of 21 priority landscapes identified across the West by the United States Forest Service because of its environmental conditions and community exposure.
He said the first prescribed burn will be in the fall at Ensign Gulch northwest of the Airforce Academy. He said communities will be alerted before the burns and could be impacted by the smoke.
"People are concerned, rightfully so, when there's smoke in the air. They don't know where it's coming from, if it's a natural fire, or if it's a prescribed fire," he said.
However, he said the burns are essential to the future of forest lands and to help local fire departments to be able to protect residential areas.
"Prescribed fire is something I take extremely seriously," Bauer said. "I'm the one that signs my name to that burn plan and I'm responsible for that. So we go through all the checklists. We won't light a match until we have everything in order," he said.
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