MV Addresses Forest Health, Wildfire Mitigation
by Martinique Davis
May 05, 2011 | 1633 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – “I don’t think people realize how unhealthy these forests are,” says David Schillaci, Mountain Village Town Council member, speaking of the changes recently made to the Town’s Land Use Ordinance pertaining to its Forest Health, Fire Mitigation, and Tree Protection Policy.

Mountain Village Town Council recently approved what Town Forester Dave Bangert calls “fundamental” changes to Article 12 of its LUO, in a concerted effort to both protect homeowners’ properties from wildfire devastation as well as to increase the overall health of the forests surrounding Mountain Village.

The amended policy calls for property owners to create “defensible space” around all new construction projects, additions to existing structures valued at $50,000 or greater, or landscaping improvements valued at $50,000 or more.

The changes are timely, if not overdue. As Bangert explains, awareness of forests’ vulnerabilities has been growing across the state of Colorado due to the devastation wrought by mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestations across large swathes of forests in the Front Range. That infestation has decimated hundreds of thousands of acres of forest, acutely heightening those forests’ fire hazard.

Although the forests around Telluride and Mountain Village are not specifically threatened by the pine beetle – many of the species susceptible to MPB infestations are not found in this area – our forests are susceptible to other infestations, specifically the spruce beetle. As Bangert notes, forests that are healthy, composed of different age classes and tree species, and lacking dead or sickly trees, can better withstand insect and disease attacks as well as catastrophic wildfires.

Requiring new development and redevelopment to implement a wildfire mitigation plan will serve to better protect the community from wildfire, while increasing local forest health, he continues. Originally, Bangert and members of Town Council and the town planning department envisioned even more rigorous regulations; however, it would likely have been difficult for property owners to swallow those policy changes.

“We almost passed something that was going to be much more strict, but we ended up with what we have, which basically sets certain standards about how much vegetation can be around the house, and how close it can be,” Schillaci explains.

Bangert adds, “It would be hard to change the rules in the middle of the game” for existing structures, noting that over the past decade Mountain Village policy was less conducive for tree removal. The revamped policies create clearer distinctions between trees and vegetation that should be preserved for aesthetic purposes, and those that should be removed for fire mitigation or forest health reasons.

The amended Article 12 encourages property owners of all existing lots and structures to review the health and wildfire potential that currently exists on their properties and attempt to reduce wildfire risk and develop defensible space.

The Town hosted an informational meeting on Monday, inviting landscapers and tree contractors to learn about the amended Forest Health, Fire Mitigation, and Tree Protection policy. The Town plans to hold another informational meeting, geared more for property owners, in July.

For more information, contact the Community Development Department at 728-1392 or visit www.townofmountainvillage.com.
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