Durango city councilors on Tuesday directed city staff to apply for a state grant that could cover the entire cost of a
fuels-reduction project on land near Perins Peak, just east of Twin Buttes.
The Colorado State Forest Service is awarding grants of up to $470 per acre for wildfire-fuels-reduction projects in
Colorado. The council wants to treat about 136 acres of the city's new 200-acre open space parcel near Twin Buttes,called Cliff Rock by planners.
I don't have a problem with this," Councilor Paul Broderick said. But is this a good time to look at treating other
areas as well?"
The estimated cost of treating the land comes to more than $600,000 total.
The city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has already approved applying for the grant.
If the grant request is approved, the project would begin in the fall and could wrap up before 2011, said Craig
Goodell, fire-management and education specialist for the San Juan Public Lands Center.
Councilors said several factors make now the right time to apply for a grant.
For one, the grant program is a one-off. The money available is left over from a federal allocation from the wildfire
season of 2008 and will be gone after the awards go out.
Another reason is the planned development of the recently annexed Twin Buttes area.
That development project is still in the preliminary phases, with a more detailed plan set to go to the city's Planning
Commission in April.
The recommended treatment for Perins Peak involves mowing and mulching vegetation with mechanical equipment.
Goodell said the thinning process can seem jarring to regulars.
The treatment procedure creates large openings between clumps of vegetation. After the mowing, roots re-sprout.
Get ready for some significant physical changes," he said.
The Cliff Rock area includes mainly Pondersosa pine and Gambel oak.
Ecosphere ecologist Maria Irwin said about 40 to 60 percent of the current vegetation at Cliff Rock would be
The most important thing to think about, I think, is that historically, fire has been the ecological agent that has
managed that vegetation, for millennia. And if we don't manage it, fire will," said Goodell. And if we don't, we need
to look at alternatives."
Councilors discussed the responsibility that comes with purchasing open space. Mayor Leigh Meigs said that with the
city buying so many acres of open space, it should perhaps draft a management plan that considers the need to regularly
clear open space of wildfire fuels.
If the project is completed this year, Goodell said it would take another 10 to 20 years before the procedure is needed
The city's first fuels-reduction project was at Overend Mountain Park in the 1990s, when the park went by another name.
Then Parks and Recreation hand-thinned fuels at Dalla Mountain Park.
Over the last four years, the city has contracted with Southwest Conservation Corps to hand-thin 38 acres of city-owned
land, at a cost of $4,488 per acre.