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Wildfire risk, threats to water supply top priorities in new Forest Action Plan

The Colorado State Forest Service calls its newest Forest Action Plan a "roadmap" to improving forest health across Colorado.

COLORADO, USA — After a record-setting wildfire season, Coloradans have seen first-hand how an unhealthy forest can make fires worse.

The people who take care of our forests are working to make them healthy again.

“Our forests have always burned, and they will always burn,” explained Mike Lester, the director of the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS).

“But the question is – are they low to moderate intensity fires? Or are these catastrophic fires like what we saw this summer? And an indication of unhealthy forest is they burn like we’ve seen this summer. That’s not normal.”

On Tuesday, the CSFS published its latest Forest Action Plan. The report says about 10% of Colorado’s 24 million acres of forest are in urgent need of action to address forest health, wildfire risk and threats to forested water supplies, at a cost of $4.2 billion.

“We, in no way expect to do that in any short term period," Lester said. 

"This isn’t a little problem, this is a big problem. And we should be working on it constantly, chipping away year after year," he added. “We can’t just pay attention to it when we have big fires, we need pay attention to it year in and year out.”

Lester said the forest plan is an analysis of forest conditions in Colorado, and a plan on how to react to those conditions. He said there aren’t enough resources to fix every problem, but the report helps foresters and their partners identify the priority areas and issues and start there.

The action plan is updated every 10 years. 

The most recent report is organized into six themes, which include: forest conditions, living with wildfire, watershed protection, forest wildlife, urban and community forestry and forest products.

You can read more about the plan here.

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