Colorado DNR & State Fire Agency Directors on National Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Report

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(DENVER) – The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission released its report outlining a comprehensive, consensus-based set of recommendations to Congress to address the nation’s wildfire crisis.

Appointed to the Commission was Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs & Division of Fire Prevention & Control Director Mike Morgan. Gibbs and Morgan played vital roles in recommending ways that federal agencies can better prevent, mitigate and manage wildland fires. Additionally, the report includes recommendations, policies and strategies on how to restore the lands affected by wildfire. 

The wildfire crisis and the solutions to it are complex and will require integrated, interdisciplinary, and holistic approaches that encompass traditionally separate spheres, including public safety, public health, and land management. 

"I am proud of the work of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission and our Colorado representatives' impact on the Commission's recommendations,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “ In our state we truly know the impact of catastrophic wildfires.  I was honored to serve on the Commission because I believe we need a national solution in coordination with State and local governments to our wildland wildfire suppression and mitigation efforts.  Wildfires have no concern over our political boundaries and we truly must all work together to reduce the impact of wildfires and protect lives, communities and our critical infrastructure."

"Historically, wildfire seasons were a 4-month event in the middle of summer,” said Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control Director, Mike Morgan. "Today, the average core wildfire season is 78 days longer than in the 1970s, with Colorado experiencing large fires every month of the year. Additionally, the number of people at risk of wildfires in Colorado continues to increase. Approximately 2.9 million people live in Colorado's wildland-urban interface – compared to 2 million people just 5 years ago. I am honored to have been able to serve the American people and represent the great State of Colorado in this capacity; being a part of developing a national, interagency solution to mitigate, lessen the likelihood and the severity of wildfires when they occur."

The Commission also found broad agreement that federal agencies should not – and in fact, cannot – effectively address a challenge of this magnitude alone. The whole of society must be involved. Governance systems and structures must be more inclusive of non-federal entities and must involve greater collaboration, both among federal agencies and between federal agencies and non-federal governments, organizations, and communities.

The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission was established by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) charged with the ambitious task of creating recommendations that address nearly every facet of the wildfire system. Reflecting the urgency of the crisis, the Commission had one year to complete this task, with a report of its recommendations due to Congress by September 2023. Prior to this full report, the Commission was assigned to develop a strategy to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs through 2030. That report was released in February 2023.

Over this past week, Colorado members of the Commission, including Director Gibbs and Director Morgan briefed members of Colorado’s congressional delegation and others on the findings of the Commission’s report and the potential implications for Colorado’s forests, communities, and critical infrastructure.