Thanks to funding provided by the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, residents of Jamestown, CO, conducted a project which increased ecosystem resilience and mitigation of wildfire risk through forest restoration. Initiated in the spring of 2022, this project benefitted not only residents of Jamestown but also those of surrounding communities, including everyone downstream of the project area. The project site was located on private properties in Jamestown (those owned by individuals and by the town), which was identified as a critical area in the county to reduce wildfire threats to public safety and water resources. Funded and led by the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District and coordinated by the Watershed Center, the project encompassed 43 private properties in Jamestown. The Boulder Valley and Longmont Conservation Districts contributed in-kind to this work, which included assessments of pre-project conditions and a forest management plan (including treatments, or on-the-ground actions, to be taken). Lastly, the Lefthand Fire Protection District’s mitigation crew implemented the treatment as agreed upon by individual landowners. Scientists at The Watershed Center were responsible for ongoing data collection and monitoring of ecological conditions in the project area.

Project goals included:

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Creating an area that firefighters can work from when a fire occurs, thus decreasing risk to life and property in Jamestown and communities east of Jamestown (fires typically move west to east in this area).

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Decreasing the risk of high-severity fire to water supplies, by decreasing the likelihood of high severity fire above James Creek.

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Improving the resilience of our forest to drought and fire, for the benefit of the ecosystem (plants and wildlife alike).

Post-project outcomes included:

The density of overstory and understory trees decreased such that active crown fire potential was reduced. Thus, the likelihood of high-severity wildfire was decreased which decreases potential for hydrophobic soils and excessive sediment inputs from the project area if a fire were to occur.
  • Prior to project completion, there were an average of 1,204 trees per acre. Post-project, there are an average of 80 trees per acre. Most trees removed were under 5″ in diameter.
  • The modeled fire type for the pre-project forest under severe conditions is a conditional crown fire. For the post-project forest, the modeled fire type under severe conditions is a surface fire, showing that a fire is now much less likely to reach the tree canopy.
  • Substantially higher wind speeds (48 mph post-project, compared to 15 mph pre-project) are projected to be necessary to cause an active crown fire in the post-project forest.
  • The pre-project modeled total flame length was 47 feet and the post-project modeled total flame length is 7.7 feet.
Project implementation did not result in an increase in invasive plant species.
Project implementation did not result in harmful amounts of sedimentation in James Creek.
In surveys of project participants (landowners), we found that the majority of respondents:
  • Maintained an understanding of forest ecology and fire throughout the project period.
  • Understood the project process and how to interact with the different stages of project implementation.
  • Felt that individuals and communities should take responsibility for wildfire mitigation.
  • Had an overall positive experience with the project process.
  • Would be willing to engage with project partners again.
  • Felt the Jamestown project was a success.

It is not very often that a small community like ourselves receives an opportunity to address the mitigation of its greatest fear. Jamestown is completely surrounded by National Forest and every year we hear and read about communities that are destroyed by wildfire with loss of property and lives. The recently completed Jamestown residential property wildfire mitigation project sponsored and implemented by yourselves helps many of us sleep a little better at night. For those of us who were able to participate, the project was a once in a lifetime opportunity to mitigate properties have been neglected due to both a lack of funding or a lack of understanding of what might be accomplished with a science based approach. A lot of education was going on in addition to tree cutting.

Mayor Michael Box

Town of Jamestown