Managing Colorado's Front Range Forests


Hiking Genesee Mountain above Denver, I ran into a chainsaw crew thinning out the forest.  They explained their work has two major benefits.



1. Wildfire Mitigation.  A thinned forest means lower fuel loads, which means lower risk of catastrophic fire, like the one that destroyed Bastrop State Park in Texas.  This is especially necessary in the windy, dry summers of Colorado.  The state had nine wildfires this year in two months alone [1].

2. Forest Health Improvement. A thinned forest also means healthy trees.  Less competition for sunlight, water and nutrients grows larger and stronger trees that are less susceptible to pests and diseases.  Furthermore, thinning allows room for understory grasses and herbs, as well as wildlife habitat, like we've seen with restored forests in Arkansas.

These benefits are clear when comparing crowded vs. thinned forests...




...especially later on, when the wood is cleared (as free firewood to residents and pulpwood to contractors) and understory habitat can thrive.

 




The crew recommended I contact Andy Perri, Forester at Denver Mountain Parks, for more info.  He said DMP manages 14,000 acres, but is currently focusing on Genesee (2,413 acres) where FEMA has supplied grant money.  Prescribed burns are another form of forest management he hopes to utilize, but now it's a "political," "uphill battle."  He recommended the following sources:

  • "Wildfire Mitigation," Colorado State Forest Service [link]
  • "Desirable Forest Structures for a Restored Front Range," Colorado Forest Restoration Institute [pdf link]
  • "Restoring Composition and Structure in Southwestern Frequent-Fire Forests," U.S. Forest Service [pdf link]
  • "Upper Monument Creek Treatment Design Criteria," Conservation Gateway [pdf link]
[1] "Colorado Incidents," InciWeb [link]

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