BLACK FOREST, Colo. - Coloradans living in wildfire prone areas, like Black Forest, may have to pay for it in a new way. A proposal from a state wildfire task force would impose an extra fee on their property taxes.
The task force, created in January by Gov. John Hickenlooper, is creating a series of recommendations on how to best deal with wildfires and forest health. The fee is one idea. It would apply to people living in places like south central Jefferson County, part of Boulder County, and, in southern Colorado, Black Forest.
"The rationale was, there is a significant risk present (in those areas)-- a risk profile different than in the middle of urban areas," said Barbara Kelley, chair of the task force.
Kelley said it was unknown exactly what the fee could be. She said the funds raised would go back to the local governments and be used for fire mitigation. She said people who mitigate themselves would be eligible for a refund or exemption from the fee.
The task force's recommendations will go to the governor at the end of September and from there to the Legislature. If legislators deemed the "fee" to be a tax, the proposal would have to go to voters.
"I've been up here for a long time," said Black Forest resident Mary Anne Ricci. "In general, I think we're good stewards of the land."
Ricci noted that many in the forest are already bracing for a big hike in their home insurance.
"Mine went up 60% last October and that was after the Waldo Canyon Fire. They said there was no correlation" said Ricci. "I'm due again in October. I don't know what's going to happen there."
Mike Nelson, a resident of 32 years, said he doesn't know how the state or county could require people to mitigate.
"You tax them to pay for it, but it's still private property," Nelson said. "So I don't know how you'd get on their property to do this without their permission."
With the fire danger that still remains, some can see the benefits of a mitigation fund. Ryan Wanner said he could see both sides.
"It would be better if, before something like this passes, they reined in the insurance industry as well," said Wanner.
But he added that a mitigation fund could help places like Black Forest.
"Mitigation would have stemmed some of what happened up here this summer," he said. "Kind of helping push the mitigation along would definitely be beneficial for any forested area."