Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative
Monthly Update | August 2021
As of Aug. 20, 2021, large fire activity continues in 12 states across the country where 99 large fires have burned 2.5 million acres. Colorado reports one large fire—the Sylvan Fire—currently at 3,792 acres. And earlier this month Denver ranked worst in air pollution among major cities of the world. Changing climate and growing population are rewriting the playbook for land managers. Here’s what we’re doing about it:

  • The next RMRI Partnership meeting originally scheduled Aug. 31-Sept. 1 has gone virtual and will be held Sept. 1 from 9 a.m.-noon.
  • Governor Polis announced awards for the 2021 FRWRM grant cycle, and some of that funding goes toward RMRI landscapes.
  • More funding flows to Chaffee County in the Upper Arkansas landscape and BLM is conducting multiple WUI projects throughout the RMRI-Southwest landscape.
  • Volunteer youth in the Forest Ambassadors in the San Juan Mountains and the Rec Rangers at Salida Ranger District are effecting real change across RMRI landscapes.
  • The creative design team that developed the RMRI brand explains the meaning of the brand and how to use it Sept. 2.
UPDATE: RMRI Leadership Team & Partnership Joint Meeting RMRI
For the safety of all RMRI Partners, the RMRI Leadership Team and Partnership joint meeting originally scheduled in-person in Durango will go virtual. Thank-you for reserving that time. The meeting will be held on Wed, Sept. 1, from 9 a.m. – noon. If you would like to join, and have not yet received an email invite, email


NWTF’s Spezze Speaks before House Forum on Wildfire Prevention and Forest Health RMRI
The National Wild Turkey Federation’s National Director of Field Conservation Tom Spezze spoke in July to House Committee on Natural Resources Republicans on the behalf of active forest management and its importance to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. “[The Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative] has brought a collaborative power — what we call the RMRI effect,” he said. “It created an environment for a shared investment in a shared problem for a shared benefit when those forests are restored at the right level.” More…

FRWRM funds projects on RMRI landscapes RMRI
On Aug. 16, Governor Jared Polis announced awards for the 2021 Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation (FRWRM) grant program grant cycle. In total, the Colorado State Forest Service will award roughly $6.4 million to 42 applicants from 25 counties across Colorado. Several FRWRM projects land on RMRI landscapes. Four of those projects fall on the RMRI-Southwest landscape. They include two Wildfire Adapted Program projects focusing on the Hwy 84 corridor, a City of Durango WUI fire mitigation project and the Falls Creek project. Two projects fall on the RMRI-Upper Arkansas landscape, which include the Chaffee Chips program and the Chaffee County fire mitigation program. At least three projects fall on the RMRI-Upper South Platte landscape, which include the Oehlmann Park project, Rolling Creek 2 project and the Elk Creek Fire defensible space project. More…

Understanding RMRI branding and how to use it RMRI
The creative design team with The Truth host a brief presentation on RMRI branding Sept. 2 from 9-9:30 a.m. All are invited. Click here to join. For more, or to receive a Teams calendar invitation, call or email Nathan Van Schaik at 720-5846571, An RMRI branding guide and all RMRI logos and templates will be posted to the RMRI Communications page prior to the presentation. A recording of the presentation will also be posted to the page.

Funding may increase CYCA capacity RMRI
Colorado Youth Corps Association is positioned to be eligible to receive funding as part of a federal infrastructure bill, which may increase funding for the corps program and establish the Civilian Climate Corps. Additionally, a statewide wildfire stimulus bill will provide funding to the Colorado conservation corps programs over the next couple of years. This funding should increase their capacity to conduct forest health projects. The Colorado conservation corps will continue their fee-for-service model but the additional stimulus funding may pay for conservation corps services for those projects. The Colorado conservation corps have to publicly compete for contracts through cooperative agreements with federal agencies. Per AmeriCorps compliance, Colorado conservation corps may not displace employees with their services. The number of conservation corps crews will expand as stimulus funds remain available. The Colorado conservation corps includes the eight accredited corps in the Colorado Youth Corps Association

Colorado state legislation supports DNR efforts RMRI
As the Colorado legislative bill signing season comes to a close, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources celebrated the significant legislative and nation leading policy accomplishments passed by the 2021 Colorado legislature. More…

Chaffee County Commissioner shares successes with counties throughout US RMRI-Upper Arkansas
Last month, Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver a presentation titled “Building Community through Wildfire Resilience” to hundreds at the National Association of Counties (NACo) conference. He discussed Chaffee County’s forest health funding measure, its Community Wildfire Protection Plan and the benefits of working together with all forest stakeholders through the Envision Forest Health Council.

Rec Rangers patrol, clean up public lands under new program RMRI-Upper Arkansas
The Salida Ranger District manages the new Chaffee Rec Rangers’ work on all public lands in Chaffee County. The program was developed under the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan to help address the impacts of dispersed camping. Recreation use more than doubled in the Fourmile area in the last seven years, according to volunteer monitoring. The Rangers are patrolling the county’s busiest recreation areas this summer. The Forest Service is funding the majority of program costs this year with additional contributions from the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado State Land Board and Chaffee Common Ground. In addition to the new Rec Rangers, a Salida-based patrol officer was added this summer to focus on enforcement. More…

Southern HDs Landscape Restoration Project open to public comment RMRI-SW
The USDA Forest Service seeks public comments on a pre-decisional environmental assessment for the Southern HDs Landscape Restoration Project located on the Columbine Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest. The project goal is to restore the land to more natural vegetation conditions and reduce the risk from wildfire on approximately 35,000 acres in the HD Mountains south and east of Bayfield, in La Plata and Archuleta Counties, Colorado. This project will complete important planning and assessment to enable future RMRI-Southwest projects. More…

RMRI Partners continue cross-boundary work around Durango RMRI-SW
The Southwest Wildfire Impact Fund (SWIF) along with the City of Durango, La Plata County and Durango Fire Department continue collaborative work to address wildfire risk on private lands to support water infrastructure. Together they defined the initial geography to include the Florida River Drainage and the WUI regions to the west of Durango. Both the city of Durango and the county of La Plata committed to securing funds for the effort. SWIF secured over $300,000 through WIIN grant funds to be implemented by the Durango Fire Department toward the Florida River Watershed work.

Forest Ambassadors’ positive impact on San Juan Mountains RMRI-SW
The RMRI Forest Ambassadors, a group of volunteers, have been hard at work since May to promote responsible recreation practices and improve trail conditions throughout the San Juans. Visitors may have encountered Ambassadors anywhere from the popular trail system of Boggy Draw to the alpine meadows of the Lizard Head Wilderness and several special places in between. In an attempt to bridge the gap between seasoned locals and rookie recreationists, the Forest Ambassador program aims to educate the public on Leave No Trace principles, fire safety, forest policies, and the unique elements of these ecosystems that make trails in the San Juan National Forest so exceptional. In three months, the ambassadors have made over 10,000 individual public contacts, removed more than 550 pounds of trash, and maintained nearly 160 miles of trail by trimming overgrown vegetation, clearing drainages, and naturalizing excess fire rings. They will continue this work through the beginning of October and look forward to meeting you on the RMRI landscape.

Pueblo Community College ramping up forestry capacity to the Southwest RMRI-SW
School officials with Pueblo Community College Southwest are beefing up capacity and recently met with the RMRI Workforce Capacity Subcommittee. Pueblo Community College Southwest – The Bayfield site begins a S-130 Firefighter Training and S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior class Oct. 5. The Site Coordinator has been in contact with surrounding local fire departments, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Southern Ute Tribe, and Southwest Conservation Corps to assess their workforce and training/certification needs. The Southwest is also exploring an educational program for heavy equipment operators, in conjunction with wildland and forestry. Notes…

BLM managing Animas City Mountain RMRI-SW
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is conducting multiple WUI projects throughout the RMRI-Southwest landscape. BLM, for example, is making preparations to carry out prescribed fires on up to 652 acres on the Animas City Mountain. A virtual/in-person outreach meeting is planned for early September 2021 to provide information to community members and interested public. Trail construction and re-routing to improve hiking and biking opportunities on AMC also continues through the summer. 


Thinning, mastication gives firefighters edge over Vosberg-Pike Fire RMRI-SW
In June, the Vosberg-Pike Fire burned east of Durango. But because this wildfire burned in a previously thinned/masticated area by the Bureau of Land Management, firefighting efforts were optimal, resulting in positive resource results and minimal long-term impact.


SCC youth complete trail work across federal, local lands RMRI-SW
Volunteer youth crews with the Southwest Conservation Corps—part of the Colorado Youth Corps Associations—have completed five weeks of trail stewardship projects. The cross-jurisdictional work was conducted on city, county and Bureau of Land Management lands. The work was made possible through a joint Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant application. 
How water connects NWTF to RMRI
Fire inspired the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative. Water may bring it to fruition. More…


Coloradans worried about extreme heat and fire: The state of social license in Colorado
Most Coloradans are concerned about the extreme heat, but even more are worried about the wildfires generated by the changing climate, according to a Morning Consult poll released in July by the Environmental Defense Fund. The poll of 300 Colorado adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 6%. In general, bipartisan majorities of Colorado respondents support measures to prevent wildfires. They also view action around the underlying climate-related factors that cause drought as important for lawmakers to address. Results included:

  • 85% favor increasing funding for the U.S. Forest Service that would specifically be designated for preventing wildfires.
  • 86% favor removing vegetation at risk of starting wildfires, such as dead trees, and selling or recycling it in order to generate revenue for restoration efforts.
  • 85% favor investing in alert systems to notify at-risk communities when they may be in danger of a wildfire.
  • 81% favor expanding energy efficiency programs to reduce the strain on electricity, gas and water systems, and our citizens' wallets.


USDA Announces Pandemic Assistance for Timber Harvesters and Haulers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing up to $200 million to provide relief to timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses that have experienced losses due to COVID-19. Farm Service Agency is taking applications now through Oct. 15, 2021. More…
Workforce Capacity

Expanding the workforce in forestry
Its role as an RMRI Subcommittee is to develop strategies and approaches that lead to improving workforce capacity on the ground. Currently, the Workforce Subcommittee is exploring options for a registered apprenticeship program. RMRI’s Molly Pitts of the Colorado Timber Industry Association (CTIA) and Tim Reader with the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) presented to the workforce center leadership on May 17 and June 16. In June, Pitts and Reader attended a Future Farmers of America (FFA) career convention. Pitts will be meeting with the Office of Just Transition to talk about the option for recruiting displaced coal miners to the forestry workforce. And both Pitts and Reader will be presenting at an economic development conference in October. Notes…
Veterans in Forestry
Matt Williams of the U.S. Forest Service is working with veterans to place them into the natural resources career field. There may be an opportunity for veterans in the future to join apprenticeship programs for the forest industry. Notes…

Pueblo Community College Southwest expanding capacity
School officials with Pueblo Community College Southwest are seeking to identify surrounding workforce needs to better inform their program offerings. They welcome ideas and strategies for strengthening recruitment efforts of prospective students. There is existing curricula through the Colorado Common Course Numbering System that Pueblo Community College can adopt and modify to develop programs that are in high demand. Businesses in Southwest Colorado, for example, are expanding their operations and may be looking for a skilled, certified workforce. In addition to fuels mitigation and logging needs, there is also an evolving demand for trail building programs to address the recreation side of the forest. Trinidad State Junior College is currently the only trail-building program in the state. They welcome ideas and strategies for strengthening recruitment efforts of prospective students. Notes…
Aug. 24-26: Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference
The Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference and Membership Meeting takes place annually, in August, for two and a half days at a Colorado resort location. The 2021 conference will be in Steamboat at the Steamboat Grand, Aug. 24-Aug. 26. More…


Aug. 27: Stream Management Plans: 101
Join River Network and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to learn the basics of Stream Management Planning. Stream Management Plans (SMPs) are a priority activity in Colorado as a result of the state’s 2015 Water Plan, which calls for 80% of locally-prioritized streams to have an SMP by 2030. Twenty six communities have so far begun an SMP – should yours be next? Register…


Sept. 1: RMRI Leadership Team & Partnership Joint Meeting
For the safety of all RMRI Partners, the RMRI Leadership Team and Partnership joint meeting originally scheduled for two days in-person in Durango will go virtual. Thank-you for reserving that time. The meeting will be held on Wed, Sept. 1, from 9 a.m. – noon.


Sept. 10-11: Club 20 2021 Fall Conference & Steak Fry
Club 20 is an organization of counties, communities, businesses, individuals and associations in Western Colorado creating resilient, economically healthy communities. More…


Sept. 21-23: Colorado Wildland Fire Conference
In-person event Sept. 21-23 in Grand Junction. For more, and to register, visit


Oct. 7-8: Colorado Outdoor Industry Leadership Summit
The annual Colorado Outdoor Industry Leadership Summit (COILS) is a two-day event of networking, idea sharing, and expert discussions to build and sustain the outdoor industry in Colorado. summit will be held on October 7 and 8, 2021 in Crested Butte. More…


Nov. 16-18: Innovations in Forest Operations & Biomass Utilization in the Southwest Workshop
Sponsored by the USDA Wood Innovations program and the Southwest Ecological Restoration Institutes, this is a sequel to the virtual wood innovations seminar back in March. New in November will be optional lumber drying course and a session on USDA Wood Innovations grants and economic assistance programs immediately preceding our workshop. Workshop held Nov. 16-18, 2021, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. More…


March 7-10: Cross-Boundary Landscape Restoration Workshop
All-lands forest and fire management in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and surrounding states hosted at Colorado State University. More…
Dan Gibbs, RMRI Partner and Executive Director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, recently said new laws passed by the 2021 Colorado legislature “positions Colorado as a leader in the nation on a variety of policies from forest mitigation to creating an Outdoor Equity Grant Program.” Highlights include passage of SB21-258, which commits $25 million for targeted wildfire risk mitigation and workforce development. 

During the spring legislative session, to address the growing threat of wildfire in Colorado, Governor Polis signed SB21-054 that appropriated $6 million to the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation (FRWRM) grant program for this grant cycle and SB21-205 that both increased and stabilized funds up to $8 million for the FRWRM program in years to come.
If you would like your work highlighted in this monthly email update, submit to RMRI communication manager, Nathan Van Schaik, at Or, to discuss any communications issues or concerns, contact Nathan via email or at (720) 584-6571.
Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative