Black Forest Regional Park is still recovering from the Black Forest Fire that left it
Black Forest Together, Inc. was formed by Black Forest citizens to help our community recover from the catastrophic Black Forest Fire of June 2013. Black Forest Together, Inc. is an approved tax-exempt 501(c)3 charitable organization effective the 15th of August 2013.
Initially, to help the residents of the Black Forest region to recover, rebuild, restore and their lives, protect the Forest’s water quality and ecological health with an emphasis placed on community values, economic stability and the richness of our natural environment today and in the future. Recently, the mission has been expanded to include assisting the State with the management of mitigation grants targeted to private partner owners, a reforestation initiative of the burn scar through the implementation of the Trees 4 Tomorrow (T4T) Program, and consultative services to communities preparing for, or affected by, forest fires or other natural disasters through the institution of The Phoenix Program.
Black Forest Together was forged in the crucible of the 2013 Black Forest Fire, the costliest fire in Colorado history, which consumed nearly 15,000 acres and destroyed approximately 500 homes. It was formed by residents intent on providing community leadership and organization for disaster recovery. Black Forest Together (BFT), with a Board of Directors and licensed with the state.
BFT’s field of expertise encompasses disaster recovery, mitigation, wildlife and watershed preservation, forest restoration, disaster preparedness, and educational fire prevention programs. Since its inception, it has provided post-fire triage support to the community through its store front Resource and Operations Center.
Black Forest Together initially coordinated with numerous civic and faith-based organizations in establishing a process to assist those low and moderate income families with immediate financial needs. This assistance was available for nearly three years. During the period of 2013-2015, Black Forest Together collaborated with numerous community agencies to distribute nearly $250,000 to help families with unmet needs to recover from the fire. It also solicited support from local businesses to distribute discount cards, food gift certificates ($10,000), and gift cards ($7,500) to recovering families.
Next, it established an organizational structure to identify, evaluate, prioritize, resource, and manage recovery projects for homeowners. To date, nearly 500 projects have been conducted, primarily with volunteers from within the locale, region, and nation. At the conclusion of the 2018 project calendar, approximately 50,000 hours of volunteer service has been dedicated to the Black Forest recovery. During the recovery process, BFT has transitioned to mitigation and reforestation endeavors. In its mitigation efforts, it has disbursed nearly half a million dollars in State grant funds for forest mitigation of private property. In collaboration with the Colorado State Forest Service and the regional fire districts, BFT has hosted presentations on home and community fire prevention to include the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Program. With regards to reforestation, under the auspices of BFT’s Trees 4 Tomorrow Program, approximately 1,500 five to twenty-foot Ponderosa Pine trees, indigenous to the Black Forest, have been transplanted to the burn scar.
Black Forest Together was one of three projects selected from El Paso County to be submitted in Colorado’s National Disaster Resilience Competition application in 2015 due to its innovative approach and model that could be easily replicated elsewhere in both fire prevention and post-wildfire recovery.
In summation, the residents of the Black Forest created a regional public/private model that is a reputable and financially sustainable organization to assist the community in its recover, rebuilding, restoration, and reforestation efforts. It also focuses on forest health through its partnerships and alliances with key national, state and regional organizations, I.e. Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado State Department of Natural Resources, Colorado State Department of Local Affairs, regional Fire/Rescue Protection Districts, El Paso County (Commissioners, Office of Emergency Management, Community Services, Park Services), as well as many other non-profits, such as community foundations, national corporations, and local businesses.
To maintain financial sustainability, Black Forest together developed a business model that compliments its fundraising activities which have historically been focused on grants and contributions. The intent is to increase the capitalization of its operations. The initial initiative developed and implemented was the Trees 4 Tomorrow Program. BFT subsequently developed a disaster recovery consultative service, The Phoenix Program, which is intended to assist communities affected by, or preparing for, disaster in the planning and implementation of sustainable recovery activities. This program is a plug and play application intended to accelerate recovery activities. Its concept is founded in six years of “Lessons Learned” and practical experiences of the Board of Directors and staff of Black Forest Together. Black Forest Together is experienced in planning and executing sustainable, long-term recovery operations for a community which is either planning for or has experienced a natural disaster.
Black Forest Together is an Equal Opportunity Provider and supports the Federal Fair Housing Law.