Programs on the Colorado State Forest demonstrate sound forest management practices and use research and innovation to improve forest health.
The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) mission on the Colorado State Forest includes demonstrating sound forest management practices; researching and innovating forest practices to improve forest health; and providing the state trusts with direct financial and educational benefits. The goal of the forest management program specifically is to maintain a healthy forest capable of sustaining a flow of values and products in perpetuity.
We define a healthy forest as one where insects and disease levels are not excessive and diverse, vigorous wildlife populations are supported. A sound forest also should produce a variety of high-quality wood products, clean water and recreation opportunities.
The CSFS practices an adaptive management strategy on this forest. The Oregon Department of Forestry defines adaptive management as "the process of monitoring and analyzing management actions to understand their effects, and then adjust plans accordingly. It acknowledges that we do not fully understand ecosystem processes, especially across landscapes, through time, and in response to natural or human-induced changes. This is accomplished through research and monitoring."
This simply means that we are constantly gathering data on resources within the CSF and adjusting our management accordingly. Forest management activities, particularly timber harvesting, are carefully planned and coordinated with the other management agencies. Various species are managed in different ways to emulate natural processes which help to ensure effective product utilization and a healthy forest condition in perpetuity. Analysis and extensive environmental monitoring programs are integral components of forest management on the CSF.
The primary beneficiaries of state trust lands in Colorado are the public schools of Colorado.
Although those benefits traditionally have been measured in terms of dollars, the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners recognize the important role that some state lands can play in providing outdoor education opportunities. The CSF is actively used today for ongoing research projects and educational programs by both the local North Park School District and by state universities and colleges in Colorado. The CSFS, Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife all participate in interpretive and educational programming.
The Colorado State Forest Service is an agency of Colorado State University within the Warner College of Natural Resources and is committed to a long-term educational role for the CSF.
Wildlife and Monitoring Projects
Ongoing monitoring projects have been designed to provide indicators of relative health for the major habitat aggregates within the CSF. Monitoring is done on northern goshawks, boreal owls, macroinvertebrates and migratory land birds. The four species or species groups monitored are indicators for forest habitat in general, and for subalpine forest, aquatic and riparian habitats. These monitoring projects have been underway since 1995 and were developed in partnership with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Monitoring has since been directly supported by CSFS and the State Land Board.
Wildlife on the CSF (left to right): a moose, a goshawk nest, a ram in a clear cut, and a pine marten.
Monitoring can be defined as "the acquisition of information that allows an evaluation of accomplishments" (Tilghman, 1986).
Monitoring on the CSF is not just an academic exercise. Data is actively used to adjust management techniques to meet resource needs.
Water Quality Monitoring
The water quality monitoring project on the forest began in 1995 through the cooperative efforts of the State Land Board, the Owl Mountain Partnership and the CSFS. A grant was received from the Environmental Protection Agency's 319 non-point source water quality program. The program makes federal funds available to assist states in developing and implementing programs for controlling non-point sources of pollution.
The objectives of the water quality monitoring project are to:
- Identify stream or river segments within the boundaries of the CSF that may have high sediment loads;
- Collect information that would help judge the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) following their implementation; and
- Establish baseline data on current water quality conditions.
Currently, 11 water quality monitoring sites are located at various points along the watersheds of the Canadian and Michigan rivers, the two major drainages on the site. Cooperation of the private landowner adjacent to the CSF has been critical to the success of this monitoring program, as four of the sampling sites are on private land outside property boundaries. Several other sites within the CSF are most easily accessed through private lands.
Water quality monitoring on the Colorado State Forest
Monitoring on the sites is done in the spring and again in the fall. The results of the first five years of water quality monitoring on the CSF are positive and show good to excellent water quality across the range of monitoring sites. Sediment loads are well within expected and acceptable limits. These results establish baseline data for comparison with future sampling. The results by themselves do not conclusively prove the health of the respective watersheds sampled, but the information, combined with other monitoring data, provides strong evidence of the ecological integrity of the uplands in these watersheds.
Livestock grazing is a traditional activity on the CSF and surrounding private and public lands. Ranching is an important part of North Park's economy and way of life. The benefits we all enjoy from ranching go beyond the meat we buy at the supermarket. Ranching in North Park has maintained open space and habitat for wildlife that everyone appreciates.
There are eight active grazing allotments on the CSF today; six of these allotments are held by the Silver Spur Ranch and Cattle Company. A grazing management plan for the forest and surrounding public and private lands was completed in the spring of 2000. The plan represented a cooperative effort between local, state and federal agencies and the Silver Spur Ranches. Livestock grazing occurs on the property from about the beginning of July to the end of September. Cowboys move the cattle through the pastures on the forest to manage the overall range condition and to prevent them from congregating in riparian areas. Properly managed grazing can be an effective means of reducing fuels and stimulating range production.
Recreational uses on the CSF are administered by Colorado State Parks, which has leased the area for public recreation from the Colorado Board of Land Commissioners since 1972. Stunning mountain beauty greets visitors and provides a unique setting for recreational opportunities including backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, lake and stream fishing, camping, four-wheeling and simply relaxing.
The area boasts more than 100 miles of trails and roads for motorized and non-motorized recreation use during all four seasons. Available facilities include the Moose Visitor Center, four campgrounds, two boat ramps, a handicapped fishing pier and six cabins.
Never Summer Nordic, a private concessionaire, also has six yurts and the Nokhu Hut available for rent.
For more information about recreation on the Colorado State Forest, contact the
Moose Visitor Center at
Never Summer Nordic (Yurt/Hut Rentals), (970) 482-9411