COLORADO — The Colorado State Forest Service is looking back on the historic 2020 fire season and looking into about what the state needs to do to prepare for future fires and protect Colorado’s forests.

The 2020 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests explores on the current health of forests in our state and what the Colorado State Forest Service and homeowners on a local level can do to help mitigate wildfires.

The report helps foresters focus mitigation efforts where they’ll make the biggest impact across state forests.

 “We can’t do anything about how warm it is or how much the wind blows or the terrain. But we can do something about the health of the forest,” said Nick Lester with the Colorado State Forest Service. “When the trees die or burn, instead of it being a carbon sink where we’re tying up carbon, they become a carbon source. Colorado’s forests right now are more of a source of carbon than a carbon sink.”

Colorado’s forests actually put out more carbon that they store, which is creating unhealthy forests. Removing this buildup of dead trees and living fuels, along with thinning certain parts of the forest, is a top priority for fire mitigation.

Another focus area is the wildland-urban interface, where about half of our state’s population lives. Foresters say making sure these areas aren’t overcrowded with trees makes homes more resilient to fires.

“Your trees should be at least 30 feet away, trimmed up nicely so they’re not a fire latter and that’s something each individual homeowner can do,” Lester said. “But if you link those projects together to try to protect a community or water supply, it’s much more impactful.”

The Mitigation Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation grant program is an option that any neighborhood or community group can apply for.