Sign up for the Fire Ecology Institute for Educators

Sign up today for Project Learning Tree’s Fire Ecology Institute for Educators!  This hands-on workshop runs from June 16-20 and is a great opportunity to learn more about wildfire and forest ecology, and how you can engage your students in learning about these important topics.  The workshop will be held in Florissant, CO at The Nature Place, an ideal location for exploring the forest and the impacts of recent wildfires.  The materials and strategies to be presented are appropriate for 3rd-12th grades in formal and non-formal settings, and can easily be integrated into interdisciplinary curriculum.  The cost of $250 for the workshop includes lodging, meals, materials, instruction, and field trips for the week.  Colorado residents may receive a $100 stipend upon completion of the course, and the workshop is eligible for continuing education credits.

The Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) is excited to help sponsor this event in our watershed this year.  Please support this program and gain skills that you can bring back to your classroom!

Find more information at
You can also contact Shawna Crocker, PLT Coordinator, at or 303-278-8822 for more information.



Understanding forest history is important for mitigation efforts

Changes in land use and well intended, but misguided, forest suppression policies drastically altered our forests. Understanding what forests looked like before these changes is important for making forest management decisions as we work to proactively restore forest health and reduce the risks of catastrophic fire.

Read the Colorado Springs Gazette’s article – Mitigation by Forest Service, other entities looks to reduce fuels that lead to mass wildfires – to further explore this issue.

Friday Firewise Tip

Siding is the largest overall surface of your home, and can ignite when exposed to extremely high radiant heat from wildfires. Replacing your easily ignitable siding (such as wood) with ignition resistant siding helps protect your home and the homes of those around you. Ignition resistant siding options include stone/rock, stucco, and cement board. Get started today!

Local Responses to Wildfire Risks Are Limited

In a study by Headwaters Economics, it was found western communities are doing relatively little to meaningfully respond to wildfire risk.  Understanding challenges in high-risk communities is critical for figuring out how policies and proactive measures can reduce risks.

Lessons highlighted include:

  • Lack of local resources is a significant obstacle
  • Lack of local political will may be as significant as lack of resources
  • A high level of cooperation among government bodies is important
  • Education is essential to overcome denial and complacency
  • How wildfire risk is presented is critical to gaining support
  • It is impossible to be continually “Firewise” or fire safe
  • WUI development restricts forest management options
  • Fuel treatments are critical, but implementing them in the WUI is not enough

Learn more about these lessons and potential policy implications by reading the entire brief by Headwaters Economics.  

Study Finds No Evidence Firewise Lowers Suppression Costs

Very interesting finding from Headwaters Economics – the Firewise program is effective at what it was designed to do (increase safety), but is not associated with lower suppression costs.  Read the full brief on the Headwaters Economics website.

The Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program often is mentioned as a potential remedy. However, Firewise focuses on increasing safety and was not designed to lower suppression costs.

The costs of fighting wildfires has become a major policy issue in the United States, and there is general agreement that both the area burned by wildfires and the frequency of large fires, often termed “mega-fires,” will increase in coming decades.

As a result, policy makers, land owners, and wildfire managers are seeking viable solutions to reduce wildfire risks and costs. One often-talked about remedy is the voluntary Firewise Program. Such efforts—focusing largely on reducing fuels and making structures safer from fires—can provide a safer environment for firefighters and enable more structures to be saved.

The Firewise Program was not designed to lower suppression costs, and our research finds no evidence of a relationship between wildfire suppression costs and Firewise participation.

The lack of evidence that Firewise reduces suppression costs suggests that policy makers attempting to address increasing wildfire suppression costs are better served focusing on other solutions, such as shifting costs to the local jurisdictions and property owners incurring wildfire liabilities and limiting future development in fire-prone landscapes.

The challenges of wildfire suppression are two-fold and necessitate different approaches for addressing issues in built environments compared to where no development yet exists. In wildfire-prone areas with built homes, suppression resources and mitigation efforts, including the Firewise Program, are critical for protecting people and property.

However, because the vast majority of private land in the western WUI is not yet developed (84%), solutions are needed to address the potential for expanded development and associated wildfire risk. For now, it appears that the Firewise Program is not a solution for reining in suppression costs when wildfires threaten communities.

Cities Now Struggling From Past Fire Suppression Efforts

We must all work together to promote Fire Adapted Communities and return the forests to a natural cycle.

Cooper, Jonathan Bruno of the Coalition for The Upper South Platte and president and owner of Wildfire Planning International Molly Mowery each said Thursday that revamped codes and regulations need to go hand-in-hand with individual responsibility in order to achieve “Fire Adapted Communities.”

Bruno is a proponent of allowing the forest to mitigate itself through ground fires. Those easily manageable blazes were the norm before the late 19th Century when people became obsessed with putting out every fire as quickly as possible. Bruno said education and mitigation to restore forests to a pre-20th Century state is like a layer cake.

He said if federal, state, regional and local officials join with homeowners associations and individual residents, the result will be a sweet one.

“This isn’t going to stop,” Bruno said, referring to increased fire activity as a result of extreme climate conditions and more and more people moving into the WUI.

Bruno and CUSP volunteers have already been thinning forests around Teller County and Park County towns, attempting to create a barrier that will slow fire and keep it low as it approaches.

Mowery believes that turning WUI areas into Fire Adapted Communities is definitely possible.

Read the entire article – Cities Now Struggling From Past Fire Suppression Efforts by the Colorado Springs Gazette

Friday Firewise Tip

Friday Firewise: Now that it’s feeling more like spring, are you thinking about what you’re going to plant in your garden? Landscaping can make a huge difference in protecting your home from wildfire, so consider how different plant species and spacing will affect your wildfire risk. Check out this great resource for more information about firewise landscaping:

Major mitigation work continues in the Colorado Springs area

There’s a tremendous amount of wildfire and flood mitigation work going on in the Pikes Peak Region, but much more is needed.  It’s important for government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, communities, other organizations, and individuals to all work together to mitigate the impacts of the next wildfires and floods.  When we all work together to tackle these issues on a large scale, the impact is much greater than the sum of the parts, and communities are much safer.

Check out this great article – Major mitigation work continues in the Colorado Springs area – by the Colorado Springs Gazette to learn more about current efforts and the challenges of landscape-scale mitigation.