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RBC I Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) are authorized and defined by the Health Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) passed by Congress in 2003. A CWPP is a community plan that brings together diverse local interests to discuss their mutual concerns for public safety, community sustainability and natural resources. It offers positive, solution-oriented recommendations to address challenges such as: local firefighting capability, the need for defensible space around homes and subdivisions, and where and how to prioritize land management — on both federal and non-federal land.
What are the reasons for having a CWPP in place?
First, the CWPP is a great way for community leaders and residents to inventory and review their current conditions for fire risk, as well as the programs that are in place for reducing those risks and responding in the event of a wildfire. Fire knows no boundaries, and the CWPP encompasses private, federal and all other land owners.
Secondly, the CWPP allows the community to define their “Wildland Urban Interface” (WUI). The WUI includes lands that are at particular risk of wildfire and should be managed carefully because of that. Defining the WUI is subjective and difficult; it is not a line or boundary, but a zone or range to illustrate where the highest risk occurs. There are many ways to define and map the WUI and the CWPP process will help Rio Blanco County decide what makes the most sense there.
Finally, by having the CWPP and WUI definition in place, Rio Blanco will be eligible for (and even given priority for) federal funds to complete fuels mitigation projects.
Who is involved in developing the CWPP?
As mentioned earlier, the CWPP process is collaborative. Technical experts from state, federal and local agencies will all be involved in the Rio Blanco CWPP process to ensure that the best information is available and recommendations reflect their management guidance. In Rio Blanco County this includes the Board of County Commissioners, the Colorado State Forest Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Town of Rangely, the Rangely Fire Protection District, the Town of Meeker and the Meeker Fire Protection District. Additionally, it is important to hear from residents and landowners throughout the CWPP process, to understand what their concerns are for wildfire, and to inform them how they can be engaged in reducing wildfire risk in the future.
Who administers the CWPP?
The CWPP is not a regulatory document and does not impose restrictions or mandate actions. Rather, the CWPP is a community framework that directs wildfire protection activities in the county and recommends measures that homeowners and communities can take to protect properties and infrastructure. Once completed, the plan will be used to prioritize wildfire protection actions in the county and in the towns of Rangely and Meeker.
Why does the CWPP need to be updated?
There are several reasons to update the Rio Blanco CWPP. First, the Colorado State Forest Service has issued new minimum standards for CWPP’s that the 2006 plan does not meet. Secondly, there have been advances in fire modeling and hazard assessment since that time that will add greatly to the Rio Blanco CWPP. There have also been changes in land use and natural systems, on-the-ground projects, and new priorities that have to be accounted for in Rio Blanco County. Lastly, the federal government recommends updates for CWPP’s every five years.
How Can I Be Involved?
Following a kick-off meeting, there will be several more open houses or presentations to gather community input for the Rio Blanco CWPP. Notification of those meetings will be advertised the week prior in the Herald Times and on the county website.