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Two Sides of Black Forest Tree Hazard Mitigation

Scene from the Black Forest Fire, June 2013

Scene from the Black Forest Fire, June 2013

El Paso County officials are trying to come up with a plan to mitigate hazards from trees burned by the Black Forest Fire.

Jim Reid, with El Paso County estimates there are 70,000 trees that are hazardous on a mix of public and private land. He tell us that number is a rough estimate and it could be lower.

He also tell us the situation is hazardous and should be resolved sooner than later.

"It's about public safety," Reid tells 11 News. "That's what we're concerned with. The project is hazardous tree removal. We don't want to clear-cut or ruin anyone's property. That's not our goal."

North Emergency Management of Fort Worth, Texas has been chosen to take on the task of getting rid of the trees in the Black Forest area.

There is a tight timeline with the current plan, because officials are trying to use FEMA disaster funds that will help pay for 75 percent of the project. Those funds run on a federal cycle, which is running out fast.

El Paso County commissioners are gathering information to make their decision, through a series of workshops.

At the workshop on Tuesday, some Black Forest residents voiced opposition to the plan, including Judy von Ahlefeldt, who has a doctorate in Landscape Ecology.

She tells us that taking the FEMA money isn't necessary and that the trees are not a hazard right now. She says it will be about five years before they pose any threat, citing the time it took for the trees from the Fort Carson Fire to become hazardous.

She also told 11 News the commissioners should wait and hire a local company to tackle the task, of getting rid of the trees.

Commissioners will hear more public input and will make a decision before the end of the year. If it passes, work could start as soon as February.

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