EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — August 1 is “Colorado Day” – the day that the state of Colorado joined the union in 1876.

Governor Jared Polis and Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera observed the wildfire mitigation efforts near Green Mountain Falls on Monday, in an effort to keep Colorado beautiful. AmeriCorps with the Mile High Youth Corps group showed state leaders the much-needed progress of thinning out the forest in El Paso County as part of Colorado Climate Corps.

“Colorado is stepping up and doing a lot more of this kind of forest fire risk reduction work because of the changing climate increase, population increase, usage of our public lands,” Gov. Polis said. “All of these factors are leading the increase forest fire risk. So in many ways, this kind of aggressive effort to reduce trees and fire fuel near where structures and people live is even more important for our future.”

The young adults have worked about 26.4 acres, but the group said there’s still much more work to be done. They are a part of the climate conservation corps program to reduce the risk of forest fires across the state.

“Wildfire mitigation couldn’t be more important,” Lt. Gov. Primavera added. “I think we’ve seen some of the most devastating forest fires in the last few years.”

The work not only protects homes that are up against the forest but also helps keep the trees healthy.

“When the forests are really overcrowded, they take nutrients from each other and make it so disease and insects can make them sicker but it’s also good to protect the homes that are down here,” said Senior Crew Leader at Mile High Youth Corps Phillip Ponce.

By discovering nature, the teens also discover themselves.

“Challenge yourself like never before,” Ponce added. “You know you’ll learn things that you never thought you’d be doing. You’ll grow in so many ways, personally, professionally, and interpersonally, and you’ll get to have a lot of fun, just like running and hiking around the forest and doing a bunch of cool, unique things out here that no one gets to do.”

Some of the members of AmeriCorps use this mitigation project as a stepping stone to taking on a career in forestry or botany.

“This isn’t easy work. And, you know, the fact that Colorado is leading the nation in conservation work is really something that we can all be proud of,” Lt. Gov. Primavera said.