Ute Pass Protection Plan revived, Spraying resumes on noxious weeds

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After several years of dormancy, the 2007 Ute Pass Comprehensive Wildfire Protection Plan is being resurrected. In a report to the Green Mountain Falls board of trustees, Steve Spaulding, forest consultant, praised the original organizers of the plan, Kathy and Randy Backe.

When the Backes moved from Chipita Park to Wisconsin, the energy and momentum behind the plan were lost. “The Green Mountain Falls/Chipita Park fire department has been kind enough to manage the plan, with debris chipping for free,” Spaulding said. “So we have a little bit of a budget left; our next step is to bring the organization back.”

To date, as a result of the protection plan, forested areas near the North Pole as well as in Cascade have been mitigated, Spaulding said.

In Green Mountain Falls, 2,500 beetle-kill and other dead trees were removed, with funds from federal and state grants. “The plan is good for five years; I don't think we're under any gun but we should do it by 2014,” Spaulding said. “The reason the plan is important is because it allows us to apply for grants.”

Spaulding conveyed a sense of urgency in forming a volunteer board of directors to get the plan moving again. “You are at risk here; I don't need to tell you that,” he said. “In my professional career of fighting fires I've never known fatalities and high loss of homes in two fires within 20 miles of one another, back to back.”

According to Spaulding, the odds aren't good for the area's escaping another disaster. “If I were a betting man, sometime around June next year, it wouldn't shock me to see another one,” he said.

Spaulding announced the first revival meeting the next night July 17 at the fire department. “I think the past two years have definitely given everybody a kick in the pants,” he said. “It's time to get this organization rolling again and get the community involved, which is a key component.”

In another mitigation effort, spraying for noxious weeds in town rights-of-way will begin the week of July 22, as a result of a grant through El Paso County. The work is done in conjunction with the town's forestry consultant, Jinnie Grigsby. Grigsby also oversaw the removal of the 2,500 trees in Green Mountain Falls over the past eight years.

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