BLM Utah’s Color Country and Paria River Districts recognized with Wildfire Mitigation Award

In a notable recognition of their significant contributions to wildfire risk reduction, the Bureau of Land Management's Color Country and Paria River Districts Fuels Team (CPD Fuels Team) in southwest Utah have been honored with the prestigious Wildfire Mitigation Award. This accolade, presented by leading forestry and fire safety organizations, highlights exceptional innovation in wildfire management. 


Nick Howell and Shawn Peterson of Color Paria Fuels Team stand with members of the Wildland Fire Mitigation Award Committee.
Nick Howell and Shawn Peterson of the CPD Fuels Team pose for a picture with members from the Wildland Mitigation Award Committee and Boulder, CO Wildfire Partners at the Wildland and Urban Interface Conference. March 27, 2024. Reno, NV.


The CPD Fuels Team has made remarkable strides in wildfire mitigation, treating over 89,333 acres in three years, exceeding their goals by 5,179 acres. Their tactics include mechanical mulching, hand thinning, and the strategic dispersal of the hazardous vegetation to curb fire spread, mainly targeting pinyon pine and juniper trees. 


A before and after comparison of hazardous fuels treatment conducted in the South Canyon area of Utah. In the before picture, there is much more understory shrubbery than the after picture.
Before and after hazardous vegetation treatment by the CPD Fuels Team in South Canyon, Utah.


Their post-wildfire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ES&R) program aims to mitigate erosion and invasive species spread, thereby restoring native habitats and creating resilient landscapes. This effort led to the treatment of 38,370 acres. 

Beyond direct wildfire mitigation, the team emphasizes community engagement and planning. Central to this approach is the Utah Communities at Risk List, a comprehensive inventory that identifies areas most susceptible to wildfire threats. Within this framework, the CPD Fuels Program's management area encompasses 27% of these communities. 

The team's dedication to community safety and fire adapted landscapes is further demonstrated through their contributions to Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs). These plans are vital tools for at-risk communities, outlining strategies and actions to mitigate wildfire risks. The CPD Fuels Team has played a role in developing 36% of the CWPPs completed across the state, showcasing their commitment to not only reducing wildfire hazards but also empowering communities to protect themselves. 

Collaboration is key to their strategy, involving a wide range of stakeholders through the Interagency Fuels and Wildland Urban Interface Committee to identify and prioritize mitigation areas. 

The CPD Fuels Team further extends its reach through the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI), pooling resources with over 50 community partners and entities like the Utah Division of Natural Resources, Mule Deer Foundation-Utah, and other wildlife and land management groups at all levels of government and community engagement. This allows for expanded partnerships on private lands and cross-boundary treatments, ensuring a unified approach to wildfire risk reduction. 


A greater sage grouse stands in area following a hazardous fuels treatment.
A greater sage grouse enjoys the benefit of a masticated area in the South Canyon. Photo by Paul Briggs, former Fuels Program Manager for CPD Fuels.


This team's efforts account for 61% of the acres treated on BLM lands in Utah for Fiscal Year 2023, despite managing only 32% of BLM-managed acres in the state. Their success reflects not just in numbers but in the enhanced safety and resilience of communities and landscapes. 

Looking ahead, the CPD Fuels Team is focused on maintaining the effectiveness of past efforts through annual monitoring and preparing for future challenges through ongoing collaboration. 

This award underlines the critical role of collaborative efforts in fighting wildfires, with stewards like the CPD Fuels Team leading the charge in creating fire adapted communities and resilient landscapes to lessen the wildfire hazard. 


Deer standing in a freshly masticated area.
Mule deer take advantage of a masticated area by Upper Kanab Creek. Photo by Steve Barker, Fuels Technician, Color Country District.

Blake Johnson, Public Affairs Specialist (Fire)

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