Local Forest Service to receive over $2 million in funds for Grizzly Creek, Sylvan Fire restoration

The funds are part of the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act of 2021

In some areas of the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar where the burn was not as severe, grass and vegetation started to regenerate naturally in 2021. New funds will address the area’s other restoration needs.
White River National Forest/Courtesy photo

The White River National Forest has been allocated just over $2 million for restoration work in the Grizzly Creek and Sylvan Fire burn areas.

The funds are part of the 2021 Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, which provided appropriations for disaster relief recovery to federal agencies. In total, the act provided $28.6 billion in funds, $85 million of which was distributed to the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region for efforts to recover and restore national forests, watersheds and communities impacted by 2020 and 2021 wildfires.

“We are committed to continuing the post-wildfire recovery and restoration work that has been ongoing since before the wildfires were suppressed,” said Frank Beum, regional forester of the Rocky Mountain Region, in a press release announcing the funds. “Our disaster recovery and restoration work connect to the agency’s recently released 10-year wildfire crisis strategy and other efforts to build on existing relationships and create new partnerships to place fuels and forest health treatments in the right places and at the right pace and scale.”

In addition to allocations for improvements and restoration of burned areas and trails, the Forest Service said that $1 million would be allocated to research and development activities. This includes activities such as disaster recovery research and the nation’s forest census to complete data collection and program delivery work that has been delayed due to wildfires and the pandemic.

Both Sylvan Fire and Grizzly Creek were named as recipients of funding from the Act and will receive $2,625,000 for their restoration needs. According to a statement sent to the Vail Daily by Donna Nemeth, a U.S. Forest Service regional press officer for the Rocky Mountain region, there is not yet an exact breakdown for how the funding will be spent in each fire area.

“Forest leadership will decide how to divide the full amount in order to maximize the restoration work that can be accomplished in each of the fire areas,” Nemeth wrote.

Sylvan Fire

A Firefighter cuts down a tree stump during the Sylvan Fire in June 2021. The area will benefit from restoration efforts such as hazard tree removal, road and infrastructure repair and weed treatment in the future.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

In June 2021, the Sylvan Fire broke out just south of Eagle, ignited by lightning and ultimately burning across nearly 6 square miles of the White River National Forest.

It has yet to be determined the exact amount of funding and the projects the funds are going to in the Sylvan Fire burn area. However, David Boyd, the public affairs officer for the White River National Forest, said that “the focus for emergency stabilization and long-term recovery for Sylvan has been on hazard tree removal, road and infrastructure repair, and weed treatment.”

Boyd said there has already been “good natural revegetation in many areas burned.”

As such, the Forest Service doesn’t feel that widespread reseeding would be beneficial.

“In many areas of the Sylvan Fire, seeds and roots in the soil survived the burn and are producing new growth that is taking advantage of the release of nutrients and new openings from the fire,” Boyd said. “In areas where the burn was more severe, reseeding typically isn’t very effective because the impacts to the soil are severe. Severely burned soil will eventually recover in about five years depending on severity, and soil amendments can help accelerate that recovery to allow native plants to re-establish more quickly.”

While the Forest Service continues to monitor the burn area in order to determine what the area would benefit from to accelerate natural revegetation, more will be known after the snow melts and the “spring green-up starts,” Boyd said.

Grizzly Creek Fire

The Grizzly Creek Fire burned for months in Glenwood Canyon, burning vegetation along the steep mountainside, which led to short- and long-term impacts within the canyon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

More is known about the restoration needs of the Grizzly Creek Fire, which ignited in August 2020 as the result of human activity. Ultimately the fire would burn over 32,000 acres, or over 50 square miles, in Glenwood Canyon and the White River National Forest.

Immediately following the Grizzly Creek Fire, as it does with any fire, the Forest Service sent out a Burn Area Emergency Response team, also known as a BAER team, to assess damages and risk in the area as well as provide possible mitigation solutions.

In Grizzly Creek, it was found that many of the drainages in Glenwood Canyon burned severely and that revegetation in the severely burned areas of the fire was unlikely for the first few years. Coupled with the steepness of the slopes in the canyon, there’s a much higher risk of debris flow — which the canyon experienced first hand throughout last summer.

However, on Tuesday, Boyd said that “much of the area burned by the Grizzly Creek Fire is recovering naturally.”

The more severely burned areas, however, would still benefit from aerial mulching to help with soil and vegetation restoration.

According to Boyd, additional restoration efforts are required in areas along trails with rockfall and hazard tree mitigation. The Forest Service continues to monitor and treat noxious weeds, vegetation and other resources.


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