Governor Polis Tours Cameron Peak Fire Recovery Efforts

Friday, May 7, 2021

DENVER -  Today, Governor Jared Polis met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senator Michael Bennet, and Congressman Joe Neguse for a discussion on the need to make long-term investments in restoring forests to protect them from catastrophic wildfire. This was followed by a tour to view a section of the fire area, the extent of the damage, infrastructure involved and downstream concerns, as well as the work that is in progress for recovery and restoration. Later, the group traveled to Olander Farms/Root Shoot Malting for a farm tour.

Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Kate Greenberg, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, and Stan Hilkey, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Public Safety also joined the day’s events. 

“Cameron Peak was the largest wildfire in our state’s history and we know that the challenges our forests and communities face are only going to grow with time, so our attention to forest health, our climate and wildfire response abilities must grow in tandem. Powering our Colorado comeback means learning from our past and caringe for ourthe beautiful lands with a focus on the future,” said Governor Jared Polis. “I want to thank Secretary Vilsack for coming to Colorado and for spending time having this important conversation.”

The state has worked to advance care for public lands and especially wildfire mitigation as a top priority. Colorado has so far allocated $13M in the Colorado Recovery Plan toward wildfire mitigation work and wildfire recovery, and $38.8M toward suppression efforts including the purchase of a new fire-hawk helicopter. The state remains committed to finding creative solutions to appropriately and sustainably take care of our prized public lands, whether addressing wildfire, water quality or recreation management needs. 

“We have to protect our forests and invest in our watersheds —these are national assets.  Secretary Vilsack understands that, and I'm glad he was here to see Colorado’s efforts and the forest health and wildfire recovery partnerships that exist in our state,” said Senator Bennet. “Secretary Vilsack also understands that farmers and ranchers should be at the heart of American climate policy. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Vilsack and the Biden Administration to support Colorado producers as they continue to deal with drought and wildfire.”

“I was grateful for the opportunity to join Governor Polis, Secretary Vilsack and our county officials today to tour the Cameron Peak Fire recovery sites in Larimer County. The Cameron Peak fire damaged many homes and small businesses and put tremendous strain on our firefighters and emergency management officials. It’s crucial that we meet these historic wildfires with a proportionate response,” said Congressman Neguse. “That’s why we’ve proposed the launch of the 21st Century Civilian Climate Corps to bring needed resources to wildfire resiliency and watershed recovery projects and increase workforce capacity to support our wildland firefighters and wildfire suppression efforts.  Through our work on the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus and as Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands we hope to continue this work to meet these challenges and support our communities, just this week we led a bipartisan letter calling for increased funding for our forest service. Today, I was grateful for the opportunity to listen, and to learn. My hope is that together we can find solutions to support our communities and restore our forests.”

“Colorado's wildfire crisis is at a critical juncture. In 2020, our state experienced the three largest wildfires in its history and we know more catastrophic wildfires are on our horizon. Wildfires know no boundaries, and in order to protect lives, Colorado communities and our forests, we must have close coordination amongst federal, state, and local agencies,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Colorado has a strong partner in shared stewardship of our forests with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack along with our congressional and state legislative leadership. Together we can drive the right forest restoration work, in the right places, at the right scale to meet our critical wildlife and forest health challenges.”

"Agricultural producers play a critical role in addressing the climate and conservation challenges facing our state and I am proud of the visionary, collaborative efforts of Colorado's farmers and ranchers in stewarding the iconic and working lands of our state,"  said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg. "I'm appreciative of the opportunity for our agricultural leaders to discuss these challenges, and Colorado's leadership, directly with Secretary Vilsack, Senator Bennet, and Governor Polis."

“Twenty of the State’s largest wildfires in history have occurred in the last 20 years, including the Cameron Peak Fire. The Colorado Department of Public Safety is continuously adapting to historic drought conditions through planning, innovation, partnerships, and changes to our resources and how we deploy them,” said Colorado Department of Public Safety Executive Director Stan Hilkey. “We’re moving to a year-round wildfire staffing model and have placed an increased emphasis on early detection of wildfires and aggressive initial attack in order to reduce the likelihood and impacts of large, long duration fires. Fires like Cameron Peak make it clear that even when a fire starts in a remote forested area, there is a strong likelihood that it could eventually impact homes in the wildland urban interface, so it’s critical that we respond accordingly. Land owners and members of the public also have an important role to play in preventing and mitigating wildfires. We all have a shared responsibility in keeping one another and our communities safe.”