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How we’re addressing Colorado’s timber and forestry workforce 

By Molly Pitts

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Gov. Polis signs SB23-005, May 12, from a Centennial aircraft hanger. Also included are Sen. Lisa Cutter, left, and RMRI Partner Dan Gibbs. Photo by Scott Segerstrom, Colorado Youth Corps Association.

Year after year, Colorado proves to be a leader in promoting forest health, reducing wildfire risk and protecting watersheds. Yet challenges persist for Colorado’s forests. High among them is building and sustaining a workforce to tackle changing climates, wildfires, water shortages and invasive species. Our Workforce Capacity Subcommittee is effecting change for the better.

Last summer, my RMRI colleague Tim Reader of the Colorado State Forest Service and I briefed the state’s Wildfire Matters Review Committee on the current state of the workforce. The committee — which is charged with reviewing and proposing legislation to the General Assembly — heard us loud and clear and advanced legislation we can get behind. I’m happy to say that last month, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law SB23-005 to expand the state’s forestry workforce. Titled “Forestry And Wildfire Mitigation Workforce,” the bill supports essential workers in timber, forest health, and wildfire mitigation by creating more opportunities for young people to get the training they need to build a career in these fields.

Elsewhere, RMRI Partner and Workforce Capacity Subcommittee member Scott Segerstrom, Executive Director of Colorado Youth Corps Association, educated legislators extensively and testified in support of SB23-139, the State Severance Tax Trust Fund Allocation. The bill passed, another small victory for our workforce! That bill allocates $10 million for FY 2023-2024, and up to $5 million toward the Wildfire Mitigation Capacity Development Fund (the cash fund for COSWAP).

This is just the beginning to what we intend to accomplish at the Workforce Capacity Subcommittee. Our workforce problem is common among all three RMRI landscapes. We remain committed to addressing these cross-cutting issues and remove barriers related to workforce capacity to help RMRI landscapes. Our next steps as a Subcommittee will be determining how best we can plug into SB23-005.

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Molly Pitts is Executive Director of the Colorado Timber Industry Association. She co-leads RMRI’s Workforce Capacity Subcommittee. If you would like to join or support the committee, contact Molly at [email protected].

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RestoringTheRockies.org | [email protected] 

The Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative serves as the common entry point for restoration efforts in the Rockies. RMRI supports Partners across federal, state, Tribal and local jurisdictions to increase pace and scale of forest restoration. This is Shared Stewardship in action.