Steering Committee

The WRWC Steering Committee is a group of individuals who represent different agencies or groups from across the region. The steering committee is comprised of federal, state, county and local representatives, each committed to furthering the efforts of the WRWC. The Steering Committee supervises the Direcctor, reviews mitigation grant applications and provides general direction for the WRWC on behalf of the broader Council membership. Below is a list of current committee members:


Austin Shelby is a forester for the Colorado State Forest Service. His CSFS district serves private landowners in Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel Counties. Austin has served on the WRWC Steering Committee since 2012 and specializes in providing technical assistance in regard to the council’s mitigation programs. Austin’s passion for spending time in the woods and specifically for the field of forestry was inherited from his father Les, who owns a private forestry consulting firm in Mississippi. Austin received a BS in forestry with emphasis in environmental sciences from Mississippi State University. Austin has lived in the Ridgway/Montrose area for 6 years.  He also spent 2 years in Durango prior to residing in Ridgway. Austin enjoys elk hunting, snowboarding, dirt biking, fishing, and hanging out with his chocolate lab Otter.


Chris Barth is a Fire Mitigation & Education Specialist with the Bureau of Land Management. Chris has worked in fire management since 1992 for volunteer, municipal, county and federal agencies.  He has worked with the public and stakeholders to promote fire education and mitigation strategies; as well as lead several regional wildfire and environmental coalitions. Chris holds Bachelor’s Degrees in both Biology and Environmental Conservation, as well as a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education.  He has co-authored several papers on homeowners’ attitudes towards wildfire mitigation and public perception of wildfire risk. His background spans wildfire to wildlife and has taken him throughout the American West and into East Africa.


John Bennett, District Chief, Telluride Fire Protection District, has 23 years in the fire service in a variety positions. He was hired as the Fire Training Officer for TFPD in 2000 and promoted to Director/District Chief in 2010. John was selected to serve on the West Region Wildfire Council in 2014. His goals include providing education and outreach, wildfire planning, fuels reduction and mitigation, organizational development and sustainability for the six county region. John continues to strive to develop relationships and dialogue with area agencies and community members to increase awareness, response capability and readiness for emergencies through education and exercise.


Steve Ellis is the West Area Fire Management Officer for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Wildland Fire Section.  Prior to this appointment, Steve served as the SW Zone Fire Management Officer for the Colorado State Forest Service for about three and half years. Steve was the Interagency Fire Management Officer for 10 years in Montrose overseeing Fire Management for the USFS, NPS, and BLM, where he oversaw about 5.5 million acres of federal land which saw about 150 fires per year. Before that, Steve began working for the BLM in 1975 and served in a variety of firefighting positions from engine crew to Helitack to dispatch and eventually in fire management. In 1988, Steve was part of a group that created the Training Specialist Position and has been actively involved, and passionate about the position ever since.  Steve has served on the Montrose Fire protection district for almost 20 years.   Steve is a 4th generation native of Montrose. Steve has been married to Vanessa for 26 years and has two wonderful children Annika (26) a nannie and Addison (23) a just graduated from CSU looking for a career. Steve enjoys his five cats, one dog, fishing, hiking and hunting and of course wildland fire management.


image001Scott Morrill is the Emergency Manager for Gunnison County, and began serving in that position in 2004. Prior to that, he was a Dispatcher in the Gunnison Regional Dispatch Center for 16 years. Scott has been involved with local and regional wildfire mitigation and planning efforts since 2004, has been a member of the West Region Wildfire Council since its inception in 2007, and in 2010 was appointed as an original member of the WRWC Steering Committee. Though he does not have a background in the fire service or forest health, Scott strongly believes in and supports wildfire mitigation and preparedness efforts, and the programs WRWC has in place to further those activities. In the wildfire mitigation world, specific areas of importance to Scott are life-safety issues and personal preparedness and responsibility, which are also cornerstones of Emergency Management doctrine. Scott recognizes and applauds the dedication, passion and expertise the Director, Regional Coordinators and other Steering Committee members bring to the WRWC. The six counties comprising the WRWC are safer and more resilient to wildfire because of their hard work.