DENVER – Two project teams in the Rocky Mountain Region of the United States Forest Service are honored recipients of the 2021 Chief’s Awards, the agency’s highest award.

The Chief’s Awards celebrate the accomplishments of individuals as well as partnerships throughout the United States who excel at meeting one of the agency’s four strategic goals: sustaining the nation’s forests and grasslands, delivering benefits to the public, applying knowledge globally and excelling as a high-performing agency.

“I am proud of our regional employees and partners who were honored today. Their achievement is a reflection of the dedication of the employees of the Rocky Mountain Region,” said Frank Beum, Regional Forester. “These two projects, along with all those nominated, highlight the great work occurring on the national forests and grasslands across the region.”

COLORADO FOURTEENERS PROGRAM

Protecting Resources & Improving Public Access to Colorado’s Magnificent 14,000-Foot Peaks

Team Members: Loretta McEllhiney, Emily Olsen, Lloyd Athearn, Jennifer Peterson

Partners: National Forest Foundation, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, stewardship organizations, youth corps, volunteers, and corporations

Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, known as the “Fourteeners,” are world-renowned for their majestic beauty. Increased visitation combined with the lack of a sustainable trail network led to the loss of vegetation and wildlife habitat, soil erosion and watershed damage. The Colorado Fourteeners Program worked with more than 30 partners like Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, stewardship organizations, youth corps, volunteers and corporations to create a sustainable trail network. They raised funds, improved access, restored trails and impacted areas, initiated education campaigns to promote safe and responsible outdoor experiences and added millions to local economies.  

SUMMIT COUNTY FOREST HEALTH AND FUELS COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT

Improving Cross-Boundary Forest Health Through Collaborative Fuels Reduction Work

Team Members: Zach Wehr, Elisabeth Lawrence, Christina Burri, Catherine Schloegel, Adam Bianchi, Bill Jackson, Cary Green, Kathleen Gray, Clark Woolley, Scott Fitzwilliams, Lathan Johnson, Dan Schroder, Jim Curnutte, Ashley Garrison, Bill Wolf, Ryan McNertney

Partners: Colorado State Forest Service, Summit County Board of County Commissioners, Denver Water, The Nature Conservancy, Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit, Colorado State University Extension, Summit County Government

The Dillon Ranger District was severely impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic, resulting in high levels of tree mortality and hazardous fuels. The Summit County Forest Health and Fuels Cooperative Agreement was formed to address the needed fuels reduction work.

The partnership included the Colorado State Forest Service, Denver Water, Summit County Government, The Nature Conservancy, and many other friends of the Dillon Ranger District. Together, they began work with Denver Water’s “From Forests to Faucets” program.

The district has since received nearly $6 million dollars from Denver Water to improve forest conditions. Additionally, a mill levy that was approved in 2019 will provide $1 million annually, through 2028, for multi-jurisdictional wildfire mitigation efforts.

Numerous fuels treatments have been accomplished to better protect communities and cultural and natural resources from catastrophic wildfires. This collaborative effort is a model for community-based forest health and watershed management in Colorado and throughout the West.