Data shows Summit County’s CSU Extension program is helping to educate the community about wildfire mitigation |

Data shows Summit County’s CSU Extension program is helping to educate the community about wildfire mitigation

Colorado State University Extension officials say increased participation in the county’s wood-chipping program shows that people are changing their behaviors for the better. Once chipped, the woody biomass is gathered in large mounds throughout the summer at one of three sites before being trucked up to the Climax Mine west of Copper Mountain.
Photo from Summit County Colorado State University Extension

Since its inception, the Colorado State University Extension office’s main goal has been gradual behavior changes through education.

In Summit County, program officials are starting to see evidence of changing behaviors through its wildfire mitigation programs. The office, which is run by the county government and the university, operates 4-H, wood-chipping, forest health, wildfire mitigation and seedling tree programs in Summit.

“We try to create behavior changes over time,” Summit County CSU Extension agent Dan Schroeder said at a Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Dec. 15. “That’s taking the research developed by my colleagues as well as the researchers and professors on campus … and deploying that to the people.”

Participation in the wood-chipping program in Summit County indicates local homeowners have been open to learning about what they can do to prevent wildfires, Schroeder said.

The program has been around since 2013 and has had a steady increase in involvement. In 2020, more than 2,200 homes participated in the program, Schroeder said.

“We really are seeing a perception shift,” he said. “People are accepting the fact that managing the forest is really good for all of us.”

At the meeting, Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier suggested the office take the success of the program and apply it to fighting noxious weeds.

“The wood-chipping program is one of the most popular, successful programs that we’ve ever rolled out in the county. I think your work in education is a lot of what’s made it successful,” she said to Schroeder. … “I also see our noxious weed program as something that falls under the CSU Extension program nicely.”

The office still has work to do, however. Currently, there is not an advisory board for the CSU Extension program, which is a requirement by CSU.

Schroeder said the office once had an advisory board, but it struggled to keep up participation. Now, the office is working to gather a group of volunteers to be on the board once again.

“That’s something we’re going to actively get on early in the year and hopefully have interested parties by March,” he said.

C.J. Mucklow, director of CSU Extension’s western region, said advisory boards are important to ensuring the office is doing what’s best to help the community.

“Our most successful advisory committees, in my opinion, are ones that are designated by county commissioners, so you have a say in who they are, (and) they geographically represent the community as a whole,” he said. “They’re very helpful for our commissioners to hear from them and also for (staff) to hear how we can do our program better.”

The office also has issued a needs assessment survey for people involved in 4-H and forestry around the community. Schroeder said the goal of the assessment is to further identify things the office can do to improve its programs.

“That would lead us to keep doing what we do or we would propose to management and commissioners some other suggestions of what the community may come up with,” he said.

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