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Students

SAFE recognized as outstanding student organization

August 23, 2013
by Megan Matonis

Colorado State University officially recognizes over 350 student organizations, but only one of these can receive the annual SOAR award for Most Outstanding Student Organization.

This year’s prestigious title went to the CSU chapter of the Student Association for Fire Ecology (SAFE) -- a club providing undergrads and graduate students with training and networking opportunities in the world of wildland fire. CSU-SAFE has 20 active members from several departments across campus, including Forest & Rangeland Stewardship, Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, Geosciences, and Chemical & Biological Engineering.

Variety of activities

CSU-SAFE coordinates and participates in a variety of professional and academic activities throughout the year. The club hosts an annual seminar series with renowned fire researchers and managers to cover topics ranging from impacts of wildland fires on wildlife to the use of fire behavior models for decision making. CSU-SAFE also facilitates training opportunities to help its members become certified wildland fire fighters. In February 2013, the club participated in a refresher course with the Colorado State Forest Service that covered wildland fire safety and basic fire behavior.

According to CSU-SAFE member, Justin Ziegler, “The highlight of our year was participating in the Niobrara Prescribed Fire Training Exchange in Nebraska. This was my third year attending the training, and it was by far the most productive and educational. It’s a dream come true for pyromaniacs who want to restore fire to grasslands.”

Justin and ten other members of CSU-SAFE attended the intensive training program over their spring break, with the goal of gaining on-the-ground experience with prescribed fire. The first day of the program involved presentations about the role of fire in grassland ecosystems, followed by three days of prescribed burning across property owned by The Nature Conservancy.

“Grasslands used to burn every 1-5 years,” explains Emma Vackili, first year member of CSU-SAFE. “Fire consumes dead grass and helps new vegetation grow by returning nutrients to the soil. It also kills trees and shrubs, like eastern red cedar, which would otherwise take over the grasslands.”

CSU-SAFE members helped kill dozens of eastern red cedars and burn 5,000 acres during the week-long training. Program coordinator, Jeremy Bailey, was thrilled with their productivity. “We always set a target for acres burned at the beginning of the training, but we rarely meet this goal. The focus of the training is really mentorship and learning. However, this year surpassed our expectations in all areas.”

Representing CSU

The Niobrara Training Exchange was just one opportunity seized by CSU-SAFE to represent CSU in the national and international wildland fire community. Eight club members also attended the 5th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress in Portland, Ore., in December 2012. Three members delivered oral presentations on their graduate research, and the group shared a poster highlighting the club’s accomplishments.

Following the Fire Congress, the club president Kevin Moriarty was elected president of the National SAFE organization. In the spring newsletter for the National SAFE organization, Kevin announced his plans to “provide additional opportunities for experiential learning and improve the networking platform between chapters and cooperating agencies, such as The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service.” During the 2012 academic year, Kevin and the rest of CSU-SAFE clearly put CSU in the spotlight as a first-class university for fire ecology.


Contact: Megan Matonis
E-mail: megan.matonis@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 217-6473