Polis, Udall, Bennet try again to speed Boulder-area fire district land transfer

Last fall windswept fire ravaged Fourmile Canyon in the foothills just above Boulder for days, displacing hundreds of residents, causing millions of dollars in damage and making national news. The wildfire raised anew long-brewing concerns about how to prepare for such crises and has given new urgency to what would appear a simple national forest land transfer to bolster volunteer fire fighter efforts in the area. On Friday, Third District Congressman Jared Polis reintroduced a bill to facilitate the land transfer in the House and Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced companion legislation in the Senate. The ten-acre deal has moved on and off the table between the Sugar Loaf fire district and the U.S. Forest Service for more than three decades.

In 2009, Polis took up the cause spearheaded earlier by Sen. Udall.

Polis’s House bill, HR 643, the Sugar Loaf Fire Protection District Land Exchange Act, centers on the site of two Sugar Loaf fire stations. The federal government owns the land, not the district, and so basic upgrades to the two district facilities can’t be completed. There is no running water and restroom facilities, for example, even though emergency personnel use the stations as headquarters to fight fires and respond to accidents, on the one hand, and foothill residents use them as community centers and polling places, on the other.

The legislation proposes to swap 5.17 acres of Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest land owned by the fire district for the roughly 5 acres of U.S. Forest Service land where the two fire stations are located.

“The Fourmile Canyon fire last fall reminded us that wildfire is a dangerous and constant concern for our area,” said Polis in a release. “That’s why it’s essential we provide our fire districts with the tools they need to serve our communities, and it’s about time we get this done. Hopefully, with the combined efforts of Senators Udall and Bennet, we can finally pass this bill this Congress to ensure that the Sugar Loaf Fire District can continue to protect Boulder County residents for years to come.”

An earlier version of the bill passed out of the House last year but didn’t make it through the Senate.

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