2011 Feature Stories

2011 Features

Mistletoe: Holiday Decoration or Parasite to Colorado Pines?

In Colorado, the term mistletoe can invoke images of either stolen kisses at Christmas time or parasitic infestations that mar majestic pine trees. So which is it?

Dwarf mistletoe on limber pine

“The truth is, mistletoe is responsible for both,” said Sky Stephens, forest entomologist for the Colorado State Forest Service.

Mistletoe is the common name for several families of parasitic plant species that grow on or within the branches of trees and shrubs.

Mistletoe plants grow on a wide range of host trees and can reduce their growth, predispose them to other insects and disease and sometimes kill them.

Some European cultures historically saw mistletoe as a representation of romance and fertility, however, and according to Christmas custom, when a man and woman meet under a hanging mistletoe plant, they are obliged to share a kiss.

The name "mistletoe" originally applied only to European mistletoe (Viscum album). This poisonous mistletoe species displays the characteristics of common Christmas mistletoe:

  • smooth-edged
  • paired evergreen leaves along a woody stem, and
  • waxy white berries growing in dense clusters.

America's leafy or true mistletoe bears a similar appearance. In Colorado, the only leafy or true mistletoe is found on junipers.

Dwarf Mistletoe Species in Colorado

According to Stephens, six native species of the damaging parasitic plant are found in Colorado's forests – five of which are dwarf mistletoes that look nothing like the traditional holiday mistletoe. Their branching, bulbous growths, which are olive-green, yellow or orange in color and up to 6 inches long, can cause severe tree damage.

“Each dwarf mistletoe species in Colorado tends to confine its attacks to one species of tree,” Stephens said. Host trees are mostly pines: ponderosa, lodgepole, limber, bristlecone and piñon. Douglas-fir trees also serve as mistletoe hosts. Dwarf mistletoes can only survive on a living host, so when a host tree dies, so do its dwarf mistletoe plants.

Dwarf mistletoe boasts one of the most effective means of seed dispersal among flowering plants – explosive germination. As seeds mature in female plants during late summer, pressure slowly builds inside the plant. Once the seeds mature, any disturbance can cause the plants to fire the seeds into the air, dispersing them an average of 30 feet at a speed of 60 mph.

“Mistletoe seeds are coated with a sticky substance that allows them to attach to the stems of other host trees, where new growths develop,” Stephens said.

Wildland Fires Naturally Regulate the Parasite

Wildland fires provide a natural means of regulating the distribution and severity of dwarf mistletoe. Large, severe fires can effectively kill expansive areas of infected trees, also eliminating the parasite from tree stands. The tree seedlings that soon begin to sprout are then free of the parasite.

Learn more about dwarf mistletoe and the five parasitic plant species found in Colorado's forests.

State Capitol Tree Honors Fallen Soldiers

On Dec. 6, Gov. John Hickenlooper led the official lighting of a Christmas tree at the State Capitol to honor Colorado soldiers who have died since September 11, 2001.

The lighting of a Colorado subalpine fir tree at the State Capitol honors fallen soldiers.

The CSFS Fort Collins District provided the fresh-cut, 15-foot subalpine fir, harvested at approximately 8,500 feet in northern Larimer County on State Trust Land impacted by mountain pine beetles.

Soldiers from Fort Carson and servicemen and women from the National Guard adorned the tree in red, white and blue lights and ornaments bearing the names of fallen soldiers.

The CSFS Fort Collins District also recently provided trees for the Colorado State University President's Office and other CSU and CSFS offices.

Mike Hughes, assistant district forester with the Fort Collins District, is responsible for ensuring that all CSFS Christmas trees delivered each December are first treated to reduce fire risk. After the trees are cut, he soaks each tree base in a time-honored solution that encourages water absorption.

Hughes says the most important safety measure for any Christmas tree is making sure its stand never runs out of water.

“Keeping the tree stand reservoir full is a must if you're enjoying a fresh-cut tree, because well-watered trees are much less likely to cause a fire,” he said.

Safety Tips

The CSFS recommends the following safety tips, applicable for locally cut trees and those from a nearby tree lot:

  • Select a fresh tree. Make sure needles do not drop off readily when you run your hands over them or shake the tree trunk.
  • Saw the base. A few hours after being cut, trees start to dry out at the base. To improve water absorption, saw a 1-inch cookie off the tree base before submerging it in water.
  • Location, location, location. Trees should not be placed near fireplaces, heat sources or areas with extended direct sunlight.
  • Water your tree often. Make sure the waterline never drops below the base. During the first few days at home, this probably means adding water twice daily.
  • Minimize ignition risks. Keep open flames away from trees and don't overload nearby circuits by plugging too many lights into a wall socket.
  • Monitor the tree. If a tree dries out faster than expected, remove it right away.

Tree Watering Solution

  • 2 gallons hot water
  • 2 cups corn syrup
  • 2 ounces liquid bleach
  • 2 pinches Epsom salts
  • ½ teaspoon borax
  • 1 teaspoon chelated iron (available at garden shops)

Mix and cool the solution, preferably keeping some on hand to regularly fill the tree stand.

Senator Recognizes Warner College of Natural Resources Students

On Dec. 14, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall's office recognized three Colorado State University firefighting interns who fought wildland fires in Colorado during the 2011 fire season.

Pamela Shaddock, Sen. Udall's representative, and Dean Joyce Berry recognize Warner College of Natural Resources students Morgan Derr, Ben Spatola and Steve Cox (not shown).

Pamela Shaddock, Sen. Udall's representative for the Northeastern Colorado Region, visited campus to personally acknowledge Warner College of Natural Resources students Morgan Derr, Ben Spatola and Steve Cox.

Derr, Spatola and Cox served as wildland firefighters in 2011 through an internship program offered by the Colorado State Forest Service, a service and outreach agency of the WCNR.

From May until late August, the interns worked with crews on two engines based in the CSFS Fort Collins District and gained valuable hands-on experience fighting and learning about wildland fire.

The recognition was related to a bipartisan Senate Resolution introduced by Sen. Udall and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to distinguish “the heroic efforts of firefighters to contain numerous wildfires that have affected thousands of people throughout the United States” in 2011.

The resolution, which passed unanimously in the Senate, encourages everyone to address wildfire prevention in their communities and to remember fallen firefighters.

Students interested in the CSFS Fire Internship Program can apply for the 2012 season.

Land Conservation Agreement Preserves 3,201-Acre Scout Ranch

On Nov. 22, the Longs Peak Council of the Boy Scouts of America and The Conservation Fund announced the permanent protection of the 50-year-old Ben Delatour Scout Ranch, a 3,201-acre property located 40 miles northwest of Fort Collins in Larimer County.

The Ben Delatour Scout Ranch, a 3,201-acre property, is located 40 miles northwest of Fort Collins.

A conservation easement on the Ranch secures one of the last, large forested properties in the Cache la Poudre watershed and enables the property to continue to serve as an outdoor classroom for children and future forestry leaders.

Thanks to the dedicated support of past and current members of Congress, including Senator Mark Udall, Senator Michael Bennet and former Congresswoman Betsy Markey, $4 million was provided for the purchase of the easement by the federal government through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Legacy Program.

In Colorado, the Forest Legacy Grant Program is administered cooperatively by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) to support efforts to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands in the state. Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) provided an additional $1.5 million in Lottery proceeds to complete the purchase.

Read the entire news release (92 KB PDF).

More Information About:

Longs Peak Council, Boys Scouts of America

  • The Longs Peak Council is one of the leading youth-serving organizations in the area.
  • Boy Scouts of America continues to be the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training program, serving 3 million youth.
  • The Longs Peak Council, Boy Scouts of America currently serves approximately 11,000 young men and women in northern Colorado, southeast Wyoming and southwest Nebraska.

The Conservation Fund

  • The Conservation Fund combines a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect our favorite places before they become just a memory.
  • The Conservation Fund has protected nearly 7 million acres across America.

Forest Legacy Program

  • Funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the USDA Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program supports voluntary partnerships between states, forest landowners, conservation organizations and others to help conserve environmentally important forests from conversion to nonforest uses.
  • The main tool used for protecting these important forests is conservation easements to provide for jobs, water quality, wildlife, recreation and a host of other public benefits.

Great Outdoors Colorado

  • Great Outdoors Colorado was created in 1992, thanks to the passage of a citizen initiative aimed to help preserve, protect, enhance and manage the state's wildlife, park, river, trail and open space heritage.
  • GOCO receives up to one-half of Colorado Lottery proceeds to award grants to local governments and land trusts and make investments through Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

Winter Care Critical for Younger Trees

Autumn arrived in fits and starts this year, leaving many trees still stubbornly clinging to their leaves even now in mid-November. Yet with winter almost here, younger trees and shrubs in Colorado can still greatly benefit from a regimen of care to remain healthy during the coming months.

A young tree with mulch around its base

Community Foresters Vince Urbina and Keith Wood of the Colorado State Forest Service offer the following tips to prepare younger urban trees for winter:

Hold off on Pruning

  • Autumn sometimes is considered a good time to prune, but pruning can stimulate trees to remain active.
  • If your trees lost many branches to the early-season snowstorms, wait at least another year to resume regularly scheduled pruning. This will allow damaged trees time to recover.
  • Urbina and Wood recommend pruning in very early spring when trees have not yet leafed, and branch structure and problems are still visible.

Water Appropriately over Winter

  • During extended dry periods over winter (e.g., 2-3 weeks without snow cover), provide supplemental water to each tree's root system at the rate of 10 gallons per inch of tree diameter.
  • Water the area from just outside the trunk to the extent of the longest branches.
  • The best time for winter watering is on warmer days, when snow has melted off and the temperature is above 40 degrees.
  • It's necessary to water newly planted trees during the winter months because their smaller roots are especially susceptible to drying out. Watering will give them a head start for next year's growing season.

Wrap the Trunk

  • In Colorado, thin-barked trees like honeylocust, crabapple, maple and linden are susceptible to sunscald and frost cracks because of the drastic temperture fluctuations in fall and winter.
  • To prevent bark damage, guard the trunks of younger trees up to the first branches using thin, light-colored plastic tubing or commercial tree wrap.
  • Be sure to remove the wrap by early April to prevent the buildup of excess moisture.

Mulch the Base

  • Apply 2-4 inches of wood chips, bark or other organic mulch near the base of the tree, but not against it, to reduce soil evaporation, improve water absorption and insulate against temperature extremes.
  • Check with your community's recycling program, as they often provide wood chips free of charge.

Focus your Efforts

  • Younger, more recently planted trees require the most care to minimize stress.

For more information about urban tree care in Colorado, visit our section on trees. You also can contact Vince Urbina at (970) 248-7326 (Grand Junction) or Keith Wood at (303) 438-9338 (Broomfield) with questions.

Grant Funding Available for South Platte River Improvements

The Colorado State Forest Service is now accepting urban forestry grant proposals for projects that will restore or improve waterways in the Denver area.

A view of the Denver metropolitan area

The Denver area is one of seven pilot locations recently selected for federal assistance from the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

This partnership aligns with President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, which calls on agencies to support innovative community efforts to provide safe, healthy and accessible outdoor spaces.

The Denver Metropolitan Urban Waters Forestry Project is intended to:

  • restore vital Denver-area waterways,
  • involve communities in local land stewardship and
  • showcase local projects for replication in other urban areas with degraded waterways.

Projects eligible for funding include those that involve:

  • planting native tree species for storm water and flood control,
  • removal of invasive species along waterways, or
  • education about watersheds and water-quality issues.

Projects must occur in the South Platte River corridor or along its major tributaries in the Denver metropolitan area, such as Bear Creek, Clear Creek, Sand Creek and Cherry Creek. A U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Grant is providing funding for the program.

“The South Platte River and its tributaries impact many citizens in Denver metro communities,” said Keith Wood, a community forester for the CSFS. “This program is intended to reconnect our urban areas with their waterways and improve collaboration among federal, state and local agencies working to improve those waters.”

Grant Information

As administrators of the grant, the CSFS will provide a total of $100,000 to communities and organizations that compete successfully for funding; grant recipients are required to match the funding.

Grant proposals will be evaluated and ranked on their ability to demonstrate:

  • achievable community forest improvements;
  • improve community stewardship;
  • provide educational, outreach and job opportunities; and
  • serve low-income and distressed urban neighborhoods near the South Platte River or its tributaries.

The deadline for proposals is Jan. 13, 2012, and award recipients will be announced next February.

For more information, please visit CSFS Funding Opportunities.

First Aid Tips for Snow-Damaged Trees

Colorado's first major fall snowstorm of 2011 damaged many Front Range residents' trees.

Before approaching a tree, examine your surroundings for hazards.

North Area Community Forester Keith Wood of the Colorado State Forest Service said that although the first impulse may be to start sawing when a tree is damaged, homeowners should assess the situation first to avoid hurting themselves or further damaging the tree.

Tips for Dealing with Snow-Damaged Trees – Adapted from International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) recommendations:

  1. Check for hazards. Before approaching a tree, examine your surroundings to avoid making contact with downed utility lines or standing under hanging branches that are broken and ready to fall.
  2. Contact city officials if necessary. Trees between the street and a city sidewalk may be the responsibility of city crews.
  3. Assess the damage. If a tree is healthy overall and still possesses its leader (the main upward branch), most of its major limbs and 50 percent or more of its crown, the chance is good for a complete recovery.
  4. Be careful knocking snow off branches. This may cause the branches to break. If you must remove snow, gently push up on branches from below to prevent adding additional stress.
  5. Remove broken branches. This minimizes the risk of decay and insects or diseases entering the wound. Prune at the branch collar – the point where a branch joins a larger one – and be mindful of potential pent-up energy if the branch is twisted or bent.
  6. Don't over-prune. With the loss of some branches, a tree may look unbalanced, but most trees quickly grow new foliage that hides bare areas.
  7. Don't try to do it all yourself. If the job requires running a chainsaw overhead, sawing from a ladder or removing large branches or entire trees, contact an insured, certified arborist. Professionals often are listed in the phone book under "tree services."

“Preventive maintenance and regularly scheduled pruning can help you avoid major damage when the next storm strikes,” said Wood. “Contact a local certified arborist for more tips on how to make your trees as storm-proof as possible.”

For more information about tree care and protection, visit the Trees section of our website and read our Caring for Storm-Damaged Trees Quick Guide (693 KB PDF). To find an ISA-certified arborist, visit www.isa-arbor.com.

Sen. Udall and Land Management Agencies Announced Findings from Fourmile Canyon Fire Preliminary Assessment

BOULDER, Colo., Oct. 14, 2011 – Preliminary results from a scientific assessment of the Fourmile Canyon Fire were announced by Sen. Mark Udall and representatives from federal, state and county land management agencies.

Aftermath of the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire.

The Fourmile Canyon Fire burned more than 6,000 acres over six days in September 2010, and is considered the most destructive fire in Colorado recorded history.

“This preliminary assessment provides a foundation for thoughtful discussion among agencies dedicated to protecting life and property from wildfire, and with those who live or recreate in Colorado's wildland areas,” said Rich Homann, Fire Division Supervisor for the Colorado State Forest Service.

Some of the nation's leading experts in fire behavior, structural defense, socio-economic impacts of the fire and fire weather assembled in Colorado to conduct this study over the past year.

During a press conference and public open house hosted in Boulder on Oct. 14, representatives from the Colorado State Forest Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Boulder County gathered to share and discuss the findings.

Some Findings Identified in the Preliminary Assessment

  • Wildland fires are a common occurrence on the Front Range of Colorado. Fires, like the Fourmile Canyon Fire, occur about every two years, and are associated with high winds and low humidity.
  • Boulder County's emergency response system provides an excellent infrastructure for dealing with these types of emergencies and is credited with the safety of all emergency responders and residents in the area.
  • Narrow-width fuel treatments were valued as safe routes for evacuating the fire area and as strategic sites for fire suppression activities; however, they were not effective in changing the behavior of the Fourmile Canyon Fire during the extreme burning conditions on September 6.
  • Of the 168 homes destroyed, 83 percent were ignited by surface fire. Reducing fuels around the "Home Ignition Zone" can decrease the risk of property loss during a wildfire.

Comments from Land Management Agencies

“The study, while still in its draft form, offers some excellent considerations for how we work with landowners in Boulder County to better mitigate, respond to, suppress, and recover from wildland fires,” Boulder County Commissioner Ben Pearlman said. “The fire was devastating to our community, but this report will help us make sense of some of the contributing factors to the fire and provide information to focus our efforts in the future.”

“We have a shared responsibility to reduce wildfire risk,” said Glenn Casamassa, Acting Deputy Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. “The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and state and county land management agencies will continue to work with private landowners to address wildfire risk across ownership boundaries.”

“At this time, it is too early to speculate how this report will change our current management practices,” said Helen Hankins, Colorado Director, Bureau of Land Management. “However, I can say we take the findings of this report very seriously. We look forward to working with federal, state and local agencies, as well as local homeowners, to find ways to reduce the risk for these events in the future.”

Sen. Udall's Request for the Assessment

Just days after the fire destroyed or damaged 168 homes, Sen. Udall requested that then Gov. Bill Ritter and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack conduct a comprehensive assessment of the fire.

Gov. Ritter appointed the Colorado State Forest Service as the lead state agency for the assessment in concert with the U.S. Forest Service.

The U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station was chartered to produce an assessment that could be used to inform decision-makers, land management agencies, homeowners and other interested stakeholders about lessons learned from the fire.

The Fourmile Canyon Fire Preliminary Assessment is now available to the public on the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station website at: http://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs.

CSFS Leads Students on Tour of Ghana's Forests

In August, the Colorado State Forest Service led 15 college students on a three-week tour of the forests and national parks in Ghana, West Africa.

A six-year old exotic teak monoculture in Ghana, West Africa.

The Colorado State University and Northern Arizona University students learned about forestry and natural resource management in Ghana, including timber and logging, wildlife and parks management, ecotourism and indigenous cultures.

“Participants went on walking safaris, completed service projects and visited wet and dry tropical forests, all while learning about a culture and environment vastly different from our own,” said Sky Stephens, CSFS forest entomologist and tour organizer. “They gained a broader perspective of global natural resource issues, challenges in developing countries and career opportunities in natural resources.”

The program provided exposure to technical facilities such as the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, Cocoa Research Institute and Plant Genetics Research Institute, as well as cultural destinations including Elmina Slave Castle, Mognori Eco-Village and Mole National Park. Costs were covered by program fees paid by the participants.

Tour Provides Insight into Ghana's Resource Management Practices

Michael Kollker, a CSU Forest and Rangeland Stewardship major, said that as a future natural resources manager, the tour also provided important insights into the management methods utilized in a place very different from Colorado.

“To have an opportunity to understand resource management practices in Ghana is to enter a world, at the end of the spectrum far from our own, where a great many people depend heavily on a highly direct relationship with their natural environment,” he said.

Stephens, who has visited Ghana six times to research forest health and has a native African forest ant species named after her, also was joined by two CSFS foresters who wanted to broaden their perspectives on forest management.

“We stayed right in the rainforest, ate the local food, haggled with vendors at local markets and saw the wildlife,” said Kamie Long, assistant district forester at the CSFS Grand Junction District. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see how another culture lives and interacts with nature.”

Firewise Community Maintains Momentum

West of Larkspur, Colo., the air is abuzz and activity abounds. It's late summer, but the scent of holiday trees wafts through Perry Park, a 3,840-acre subdivision and Firewise Community.

For the past 10 years, Perry Park residents have made a deliberate effort to change the way a fire will behave and to restore overall forest health.

Historic photos of Perry Park portray an open forest setting. With time, and few natural disturbances, the forest has grown dense with trees, which now share the space with homes.

Residents and contractors are removing some of the trees and reducing the size of the oak thickets.

The Larkspur fire mitigation crew, equipped with chainsaws, are removing diseased trees and thinning out the remaining trees to ease the competition for water and nutrients and thereby create a better growing environment.

In the same vicinity, a contractor cuts patches in the Gambel oak thickets with a piece of equipment that chews rather than cuts the oak, scattering the chunks of wood across the ground. To keep fire out of tree tops, oak shrubs growing under trees also are removed.

For the past 10 years, Perry Park residents have made a deliberate effort to change the way a fire will behave and to restore overall forest health. Landowners and contractors cut ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir trees by hand and prune live tree branches. Once cut, the root systems of evergreen trees die and decompose.

The Oak is Not as Simple

After the oak is cut, new stems sprout from the root system. The healthier the oak clump, the greater number of new shoots. Within five to 10 years, depending on growing conditions, the benefits from the first cutting will diminish.

Perry Park is in the process of reducing the size of the oak thickets for the second and, in some cases, third time.

A small piece of equipment with a front-end, oversized lawnmower attachment mows road easements to keep the oak in check. In areas where grass and forbs grow well, the resident forester noticed that the grasses and other plants can out-compete the oak after it has been cut two consecutive years. The oak maintenance interval then can be lengthened.

Connecting the Pieces

Living in the forest with native vegetation landscaping is a lifestyle many people desire, and although the usual yard tools may not be required to maintain the landscaping, the forest does require care.

After this year's work is completed, the south boundary of the Perry Park subdivision, which stretches more than a mile, will have a 300-foot thinned corridor. On the west side, fire mitigation work in the subdivision ties in to work completed by the Pike National Forest. Thinned common areas act as hubs for property owners to "attach" their own mitigation work.

If Perry Park were a jigsaw puzzle, most of the border pieces would be connected and groups of connected pieces would be correctly positioned within the puzzle. The people working on the puzzle can now see what the picture will be – a healthier, resilient, fire-adapted forest that supports a variety of wildlife.

It's just a matter of continuing to connect the puzzle pieces.

Most Beetle-Kill Trees Still Standing, But Ripe for Falling

Hunters and leaf peepers headed to the mountains this autumn should be aware that huge swaths of lodgepole pines in beetle-kill areas are past due to fall at any time, based on observations from foresters in Grand County.

Thousands of dead pines have already fallen over the past few years.

Ryan McNertney, forester with the Colorado State Forest Service Granby District, says that although thousands of dead pines have already fallen over the past few years, foresters expect that rate to increase in the near future.

“We're seeing more trees snapping off at the trunk as they rot, rather than coming free at the roots,” he said.

Foresters have estimated that about 80 percent of Colorado's lodgepole pine trees killed by mountain pine beetles will fall within a decade of dying. Yet many lodgepole pine stands impacted by the beetles more than a decade ago have yet to fall.

“A lot of factors determine when an individual tree falls, including how long it has been dead, how much wind the site receives and how wet the wood remains over time,” McNertney said. He said this combination of factors makes it difficult for foresters to determine exactly when a stand of trees might blow over.

“But they're going to be coming down soon, wind or no wind,” he said.

The CSFS offers the following tips to avoid harm from falling trees:

  • Refrain from visiting forested areas in high-wind conditions or when strong winds are forecast.
  • Remove standing dead trees in the vicinity of houses and other structures.
  • If the wind picks up when you're outside, move to a clearing away from dead or exposed trees.
  • Locate campsites, parked vehicles and tents well away from dead trees.
  • If possible, steer clear of remote roads that pass through beetle-kill forests, as trees falling across the road after your passage could block your exit.
  • Pack a saw or chainsaw when headed into the backcountry to clear fallen trees from roadways.

Join CSFS at our Forestry Fair on Sept. 17

The Colorado State Forest Service and the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University invite you to bring your family, friends, club or class to the 2011 Forestry Fair.

Forestry Fair 2011

Saturday, Sept. 17
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

LOCATION
Colorado State Forest Service
CSU Foothills Campus
3843 LaPorte Ave.
Fort Collins, Colorado


Celebrate the International Year of Forests!

The free event will feature:

  • Logging sports demonstrations
  • Seedling tree nursery tours
  • Wildland fire engine shop tours
  • Forestry equipment demonstrations
  • Programs on forest insects and diseases, fire, forest products and community forestry
  • Kids' activities, including puppet shows, tree seed plantings, fire experiments and crafts
  • Information on natural resource and forestry careers

Forestry Fair Program | Event Map

For more information or group registration, contact Jamie Dahl at CSFS_ForestryFair@mail.colostate.edu.

Download the Forestry Fair Flyer

Directions to Event


View Larger Map

CSFS Releases First Colorado Forest Road Field Handbook

The Colorado State Forest Service has released the first-ever Colorado Forest Road Field Handbook to provide private landowners and state land managers information on how to properly build and maintain forest roads.

A well-constructed and maintained forest road in Colorado.

The purpose of the free 142-page handbook (11.4 MB PDF) is to protect water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and forest ecosystems by helping to ensure that forest roads are constructed and maintained according to accepted best management practices.

Forest roads can produce up to 90 percent of the sediment generated by forest activities, due to vegetation and soil disturbance that can lead to degraded water quality.

The full-color CSFS forest road handbook provides on-the-ground guidelines and illustrations on proper road design, location, inspection, maintenance and repair to help landowners protect local water supplies and minimize erosion. The handbook also can help save landowners thousands of dollars on maintenance costs over time through proper design and placement of forest roads.

“This handbook will ensure well-designed forest roads that are built in the best possible locations to minimize impacts on the surrounding environment,” said Rich Edwards, CSFS assistant staff forester and chief editor of the handbook.

Personnel from the CSFS, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, Natural Resources Conservation Service and other natural resources agencies reviewed and provided comment on the handbook. The handbook provides contact information for technical assistance from these and many other relevant agencies and organizations, and includes a section on contracts for easements, road construction and general forestry operations.

“We wanted to get as much district and interagency input as possible to make this relevant to forests throughout Colorado,” Edwards said.

Private forest roads allow landowners access to timber harvesting operations and forest management activities, and provide crucial access for fire protection, recreation and search-and-rescue operations.

The CSFS road guidelines are directed primarily at private landowners extending or maintaining roads in forested watersheds, but also will be useful to loggers, road construction contractors and professional foresters. The CSFS also encourages anyone who works in or owns forestland to utilize the forest road handbook when designing stream crossings such as bridges or culverts.

Forest road figures and guidelines were largely borrowed from a similar handbook created by the Oregon State University Extension Service, but were tailored to Colorado's distinct climate, forest types, soils and topography.

Funding for publication was provided through a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Water Quality Control Division.

For more information about the Colorado Forest Road Field Handbook (11.4 MB PDF) or to obtain a free printed copy, contact a local CSFS district office.

Join us at the 2011 Forestry Fair and Celebrate the International Year of Forests

International Year of Forests 2011 logo

The Colorado State Forest Service and the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University invite you to bring your family, friends, club or class to the 2011 Forestry Fair and help us celebrate the International Year of Forests.

The event will include forestry equipment demonstrations, facility tours, educational sessions, children's activities and the latest innovations in forest products.

Come learn about the role active forest management plays in the conservation of resources that we all share, including water, wildlife, recreation, wildland fire and wood. Read more

Where Wood Works: Harnessing the Energy of Woody Biomass in Colorado

Woody biomass is the material from trees, including bark, wood, leaves, needles and roots. Biomass-based energy projects in Colorado are providing a renewable and affordable source of heat for buildings of all types – from homes heated by wood pellet stoves to large buildings heated by wood chip boilers.

Where Wood Works: Harnessing the Energy of Woody Biomass in Colorado

Previously published in 2007, an updated booklet highlights several Colorado biomass projects, and presents technologies used, key factors for project success and emphasizes our state's forest products industry.

Other sections include air quality, wood chip specifications and procurement, and financial and technical assistance.

Please read more in Where Wood Works: Harnessing the Energy of Woody Biomass in Colorado (4.9 MB PDF).

Piñon-Juniper Woodland Ecology and Management

Piñon-juniper (PJ) woodlands are widespread in Colorado's lower elevations, ranging from 4,900 to 8,000 feet on Colorado's Western Slope; they also exist in limited distribution in south-central Colorado and on the Eastern Plains.

Piñon-juniper woodlands are the dominant vegetation type in the Colorado National Monument. Photo by Bill Ciesla

PJ woodlands account for more than 5 million acres or approximately 21 percent of the state's forested lands.

To learn more about the ecology and management of this unique forest type, please read the new Piñon-Juniper Management Quick Guide (401 KB PDF).

CSFS Accepting 2012 Wildland-Urban Interface Grant Applications

The Colorado State Forest Service is now accepting grant applications for the 2012 State Fire Assistance Wildland-Urban Interface Program. The application period is limited, so please contact your local Colorado State Forest Service district office regarding due dates.

Hazardous fuels reduction near this home helps firefighters protect it from wildfire.

All interested applicants will be required to identify project location according to one of the national theme maps found in the Colorado Statewide Forest Resource Assessment on p 70-72 (5.7 MB PDF), and describe project relevance as it pertains to the Colorado Statewide Forest Resource Strategy (1.7 MB PDF). Applicants are encouraged to consult their local CSFS District for assistance in assessing where their projects are located with respect to the theme maps.

Additional information about the 2012 WUI grant program, including program criteria, instructions and an application form, is available on our funding opportunities web page.

Beetle-killed Spruce Trees Find Use in Homes

In Colorado, "wolf creek" brings to mind skiing, advanced driving skills and scenic vistas. The view along U.S. Highway 160 over Wolf Creek Pass is changing.

Dead spruce trees become siding, tongue and groove flooring, posts and more, that are used in and around homes across Colorado and other states.

The once-green forest now is a mosaic of gray, orange, yellow and green, because native spruce beetles are killing the older Engelmann spruce trees. The view from the highway illustrates what is happening elsewhere in the spruce forests surrounding the Rio Grande River.

A small sawmill in Del Norte, Colo., gives new life to dead spruce trees and, in the process, contributes to the economic vigor of the town. Despite rising fuel costs and the lack of new housing starts, Rocky Mountain Timber Products in Rio Grande County is weathering the economic storm, thanks in part to an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act sub-grant through the Colorado State Forest Service. The small sawmill that operated only sporadically in 2009 now operates full time and employs nine people in this rural county.

The log truck inches along the unpaved county road behind a herd of cows and calves being moved from one pasture to another. As the cows saunter off into the pasture, the log truck turns into the mill. The logs are picked off the truck like toothpicks and neatly stacked.

A large saw at the Rocky Mountain Timber Products sawmill cuts logs to specified lengths.

A large, whirling saw spitting sawdust cuts the newly arrived logs to specified lengths. The cut logs drop off the conveyor to the ground and a forklift transports them to the band saw. Transformed by saws and planer, the trees become siding, tongue and groove flooring, beams, posts, pallets, mulch and more, that are used in and around homes across Colorado and other states.

The sawmill owner knows there are easier ways to make a living, but as he puts it, "he has sawdust in his veins." He wouldn't have it any other way.

Colorado Forest Products™ Online Database Now Available

Colorado Forest Products logo

The Colorado Wood Utilization & Marketing Program and CSFS are pleased to announce that the Colorado Forest Products™ program web pages and a searchable CFP™ business database are now available on our website.

The interactive database was designed to help consumers locate wood products businesses throughout the state that are members of the CFP™ program.

The database is searchable by business name, location and product type, and includes each company's profile. In addition, companies now have the advantage to complete and submit their membership information online.

Please take a few moments to learn more about our Colorado Forest Products™ program and search our new database.

Teachers Learn About Fire Ecology and Forest Health

On June 12-17, teachers from across Colorado attended a Fire Ecology Institute at the Fort Lewis College campus in Durango.

Colorado teachers get ready to learn how to dig a fire line during this year's Fire Ecology Institute.

Throughout the week, the teachers learned about the science behind wildfires from biologists, ecologists, firefighters, foresters and hydrologists.

Workshop participants visited forests still recovering from previous wildfires, learned about wildfire as it relates to forest health and obtained materials about fire ecology to use in lesson plans to teach their students this fall.

Shawna Crocker, Project Learning Tree coordinator for the Colorado State Forest Service, was the primary facilitator of the workshop. Lu Boren, a middle school science teacher from Durango, and Gabi Morey, education outreach program director for the San Juan Mountain Association, helped Crocker plan and facilitate the workshop.

The facilitators led the teachers on hikes and activities through areas that have experienced wildfires in the past and to communities in the process of reducing hazards around their property and homes to mitigate against potential wildfires.

The Colorado educators travelled to Vallecito and Lemon Reservoir, where the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire burned more than 70,000 acres. They also learned about fire rules and regulations in Mesa Verde National Park, participated in a fire simulation demonstration and experienced digging a fire line and climbing into a fire shelter.

The educators also received activities they can use to teach their students about fire ecology in Colorado's forests. These activities included creating matchstick forests on a masonite board. This simulation demonstrates fire behavior during different upslope and downslope conditions. Teachers removed matches to create their own "forest" fuelbreaks. Participants were also given the Project Learning Tree curriculum, which provides modules to help their students explore many other environmental issues.

The teachers completed the workshop with a deeper understanding of fire ecology in Colorado and the tremendous work it takes for communities to protect their homes and properties against potential wildfires.

For more information on the Fire Ecology Institute, contact Shawna Crocker at (303) 202-4662 or visit www.coloradoplt.org.

Presence of Mountain Pine Beetles More Evident on Northern Front Range

If you saw red when visiting the northern Front Range foothills over the past few weekends, you're not alone.

Mountain pine beetle infestation in ponderosa pine. Photo by Bill Ciesla

Compared to past years, many more ponderosa and lodgepole pines along Colorado's northern Front Range have faded to red and yellow in recent months, said Sky Stephens, forest entomologist for the Colorado State Forest Service.

She said the visible patches of dying trees in the Poudre and Big Thompson canyons, along the Peak to Peak Highway and near U.S. Highway 287 north of Fort Collins are a reflection of the increase in local mountain pine beetle activity over the past few years.

“People living along the Front Range don't have to drive as far as they used to before they run into beetle infestation,” Stephens said. She said that infested lodgepole pines tend to be redder in color, while ponderosa pines appear more yellow.

Based on 2010 aerial detection surveys by the CSFS and U.S. Forest Service, mountain pine beetle activity in lower-elevation stands of ponderosa pine on the Front Range increased more than tenfold from the previous year. Most of this activity was observed in Larimer and Boulder counties, where infestations were mapped on 181,000 and 36,000 acres of ponderosa pine forest, respectively. Nearly 3.2 million acres in Colorado have been impacted by mountain pine beetles since the first signs of outbreak in 1996.

Landowners who want to prevent the beetles from spreading to healthy trees must act soon, as emerging adults typically depart dying trees to infest new hosts starting in early July. While there is no effective treatment available to save trees already infested by mountain pine beetles, Stephens said landowners can apply preventive treatments to non-infested trees and kill late-stage larvae and pre-emergent adults in dead or dying trees through management measures.

“Landowners who are considering mountain pine beetle treatments should contact their nearest Colorado State Forest Service district office to discuss the most effective options,” Stephens said.

For more information about mountain pine beetle treatments, visit our mountain pine beetle web page.

Wildfire & Insurance Brochure Developed for Landowners

Wildfire is a growing threat in the Rocky Mountain Region, where the population is booming in the mountains and foothills. People often don't realize the dangers of living in the Red Zone (wildland-urban interface areas of high wildfire risk) and don't always realize the potential for losing their homes to wildfire.

Defensible space created around a home helps mitigate its potential loss from wildfire.

The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, Colorado State Forest Service and other partner agencies developed a brochure called Wildfire & Insurance that provides homeowners with information about wildfire hazard mitigation and the insurance impacts of living in high-risk areas.

Read more in the brochure (5.3 MB pdf).

Firefighing Internship Provides CSU Students Hands-on Experience

With a busy fire season already underway, a group of Colorado State University students are joining the collective effort to fight Colorado's wildland fires.

The 2009 CSFS firefighting intern crew at the Slider Fire, Durango District.

Four students – three from CSU, another from West Virginia University – are starting their first seasonal wildland firefighting jobs in May as interns for the Colorado State Forest Service. Over the summer, they will have the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience fighting and learning about wildfire.

Matt Branch, engine boss for the CSFS Fort Collins District and co-founder of the CSFS Fire Internship Program, says the internship was started to provide forestry and natural resources students with practical wildland firefighting experience to complement what they learn from books and lectures.

“This program is designed to give students training they can't get in a classroom setting,” Branch said.

The CSFS created the internship program in 2009 specifically for CSU and Front Range Community College students with little to no wildland firefighting experience. Branch says the program is open to college students across the country, which has attracted crew members from other schools who later transferred to CSU.

“Another benefit of the program is that it allows us to staff an additional fire engine during peak fire season,” Branch said.

CSFS wildland firefighting interns who participated in the program in 2009 and 2010 have gone on to join hot shot crews, helicopter units and fire crews with the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy. Collin Brozka, a 2010 intern and CSU forestry graduate, now works as a firefighter for Prescott Helitack, an eight-person wildland firefighting helicopter crew based on the Prescott National Forest in Arizona.

“CSU has a top-notch wildland fire science program, but it's difficult to obtain the practical experience and national certifications needed to secure a firefighting job with the federal government,” said Brozka. “The CSFS internship program provides excellent on-the-ground firefighting experience and the training necessary to supplement classroom education.”

In addition to fighting wildland fires, the CSFS interns learn about various aspects of wildland fire management, from fuels reduction to planning and budgeting to running chainsaws. This year's interns will work until school starts in late August, and may return to help fight large wildfires that occur in the fall. For example, in 2010, CSFS interns returned to assist firefighters battling the Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder.

Students interested in the CSFS Fire Internship Program can apply for the 2012 season when announcements go out in November or December, or visit our Becoming a Wildland Firefighter web page for more information.

CSFS Fire Management Building Dedicated to Distinguished State Forester

The Colorado State Forest Service and Colorado State University dedicated the new CSFS Fire Management Building to former State Forester Jim Hubbard at a ceremony on May 23.

Jim Hubbard culminated a 35-year career with the CSFS by leading the agency as Colorado State Forester from 1984-2004.

State Rep. Randy Fischer (D-Fort Collins), CSU President Tony Frank and other dignitaries offered remarks during the ceremony at 3843 LaPorte Avenue on CSU's Foothills Campus in Fort Collins.

Hubbard, who now serves as the U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry, culminated a 35-year career with the CSFS by leading the agency as Colorado State Forester from 1984-2004. Under his leadership, the CSFS strengthened its reputation as one of the premier state forestry organizations in the country, and gained a national reputation for exemplary leadership in wildland fire management.

“Jim Hubbard's visionary leadership, tireless professionalism, and unfailing commitment to the health of our nation's forests have made him one of the most influential and important voices in U.S. forest management over the past three decades,” said Colorado State University President Tony Frank. “We are honoring his national service and leadership with this dedication, but we are also honoring him as an extraordinary colleague, alumnus and friend who dedicated a significant part of his career to advancing the Colorado State Forest Service as an agency that sets the standard nationwide and is recognized today as vital to Colorado's economy and future.”

“Jim Hubbard is one of Colorado State University's most distinguished and accomplished alumni. Throughout his career, he has led Colorado and the nation in developing state-of-the-art forestry, fire and private land management programs and policies,” said Joyce Berry, dean of the CSU Warner College of Natural Resources. Hubbard is a 1969 graduate and CSU Honor Alumnus.

Hubbard also has achieved numerous other forestry accomplishments, including:

  • Drafting the National Fire Plan in 2003, which laid the groundwork for a collaborative approach to reducing wildland fire risks to communities.
  • Serving as president of the National Association of State Foresters.
  • Serving as chair for the Governor's Conference on Forest Health and the Governor's Task Force on the Wildland-Urban Interface.
  • Acting as the U.S. Department of the Interior Director of the Office of Wildland Fire Coordination.
  • Operating on an elite Type 1 national Incident Management Team.
  • Serving as chairman of the board for the non-profit organization American Forests.

“Jim Hubbard is a visionary whose commitment to collaboration, public service and diplomacy in establishing forest and wildland fire management policy is unparalleled,” said current State Forester and CSFS Director Jahnke. “Naming the new CSFS Fire Division building after him is a small but symbolic way to recognize his tremendous contributions to the agency, the university and the citizens of Colorado.”

“Colorado is my home. That makes this dedication even more special. Every Coloradan enjoys the bounty of exceptional natural resources. I had the privilege of working with those who protect our forests and make this state a special place to live,” Hubbard said.

Fire Ecology Workshop Free to Colorado Teachers

This June, Colorado teachers will have the opportunity to attend a free weeklong forest and wildfire workshop in Durango, Colo., where they will visit forests burned in recent wildfires, learn about wildland fire as it relates to forest health and obtain materials about forest fire ecology they can share with their students this fall.

Participants in the 2009 Fire Ecology Institute for Educators learn how to dig a fire line.

All Colorado educators for grades 4 through 12 are invited to attend the Fire Ecology Institute from June 13-17 (arrive on Sunday, June 12), which is being offered for the 10th year by the Colorado State Forest Service. Instructors include natural resource professionals from the CSFS, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Colorado Geographic Alliance.

The 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire site and multiple Mesa Verde wildfire sites near Durango provide an ideal setting for the learning sessions, in which foresters, firefighters, biologists, ecologists and hydrologists offer field demonstrations, experiments and example lesson plans to attending educators. Attendees are sent home with a collection of materials and resources including Project Learning Tree activity guides, fire demonstration experiments for their students and information from multiple organizations and agencies in the form of posters, DVDs and other materials.

“This workshop offers teachers the knowledge, experience and materials they need to provide their students with interesting, hands-on information about Colorado forests, fire ecology and wildfire behavior,” said Shawna Crocker, Project Learning Tree coordinator for the CSFS.

Federal Wildland-Urban Interface Program grant funds administered by the CSFS cover the costs of the workshop, making it free to Colorado educators; a $50 placeholder deposit is required, which is refunded upon completion of the workshop. Meals, materials, field trips, instruction and lodging at Fort Lewis College are all included.

The deadline to apply for the workshop is May 23. For more information, contact Shawna Crocker at (303) 202-4662 or visit www.coloradoplt.org to register online.

CSU Forestry Students Get Behind the Wheel of Heavy Logging Equipment

The Colorado State Forest Service and a Fort Collins timber products company provided students from Colorado State University's Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship a rare opportunity to get firsthand experience working with heavy logging equipment.

Forestry students, CSFS staff and Morgan Timber Products crew members at the company's jobsite.

CSFS personnel arranged a student field day at the Morgan Timber Products jobsite in northern Fort Collins, where owner Mark Morgan allowed eight CSU students and a student from Front Range Community College to get behind the wheel of more than $1 million worth of timber harvesting heavy equipment.

Matt Schiltz, a CSU graduate student in forest sciences, said the demonstration put on by Morgan Timber Products was both educational and very exciting to experience. “It is hugely beneficial to future foresters to experience logging equipment in this manner,” he said.

Jamie Dahl, experiential learning coordinator for the CSFS and the CSU-CSFS student liaison, emphasized that this was a very unique experience for forestry students, especially in a state like Colorado with a very small wood products industry.

“These students will talk about this trip for a long time. I think we instructors will, too,” Dahl said.

Students learned the specific uses, costs and limitations for each piece of harvesting equipment. They then were allowed a special opportunity to operate two massive log skidders and a 12-ton forwarder – a vehicle that carries felled trees to roadside landings – under close direction of Morgan and his crew.

Morgan, an alumnus of the forestry program at CSU (1973), says he is a huge supporter of the program and plans to continue to help provide CSU students with hands-on field opportunities to make sure they have the experience they need to implement good forest management practices.

Morgan's crew is currently using the logging equipment for mountain pine beetle mitigation at the Shambhala Mountain Center, a Buddhist retreat near Red Feather Lakes. Mike Hughes, assistant district forester for the CSFS Fort Collins District, said that much of the ponderosa pine forest across Larimer County, including the forest at Shambhala, is peppered with pockets of mountain pine beetle.

“Red and dead trees stand out across the landscape, but the most recent beetle hits, which are still green and just now starting to turn brown, are our main focus as they will lead to more dead trees this summer if they are not harvested and used now,” Hughes said.

The CSFS is a service and outreach agency of CSU's Warner College of Natural Resources.

River-bottom Wildlife Thriving Thanks to Seedling Trees

If you grow it, they will come. Such was the logic behind two decades of planting trees and shrubs to attract wildlife to Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area, where the fertile bottomlands of the Colorado River snake through the high-desert landscape west of Grand Junction.

This year's planting will create a future buffer between Interstate 70 and the Colorado River corridor.

Hunters frequent the area to harvest mourning doves, waterfowl, mule deer and other game, while hikers and horseback riders visit the desert oasis to enjoy the riverside scenery and watch birds and other wildlife.

Although the wildlife area provides a 1,200-acre oasis for both wildlife and recreationists, its wide-open landscape and close proximity to Interstate 70 made the habitat less appealing. So over the past two decades, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Forest Service together planted more than 100,000 tree and shrub seedlings to improve habitat for wildlife, including birds, deer, bobcats, wild turkeys, rabbits, raccoons and the odd black bear or cougar passing through.

In May, the agencies will plant another 900 seedling trees and shrubs at the state wildlife area as part of an ongoing project to meet U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requirements on the property.

“We want to convert portions of these agricultural areas to a dense mix of trees and shrubs, which will provide critical cover and a food source for a variety of game and non-game wildlife species,” said Kelly Rogers, district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service in Grand Junction. The trees and shrubs planted at the state wildlife area all came from the CSFS Nursery in Fort Collins.

First Seedlings Planted in 1993

Walking through Horsethief Canyon SWA, one notices the fragrant scent of sumac and damp earth, along with the sounds of mourning doves cooing, geese honking… and the occasional interruption of Jake brakes blaring from passing semi-trailers. In part to minimize the sights and sounds of the interstate, in the early 1990s the previous manager of the state wildlife area worked with the CSFS on a plan to revegetate bottomlands that until the 1980s had been comprised purely of corn and alfalfa fields.

Of the first CSFS seedlings planted at Horsethief Canyon SWA in 1993, many were derived from seeds that were harvested there and grown at the CSFS Nursery to ensure higher survival rates. Rogers says many of the seedlings died that first year, but every year since, the plantings have been increasingly successful due to such improvements as installation of an irrigation system, the use of weed barrier fabric and better selection of planting sites. After five or six years, the rows took off and still thrive through continued watering from the irrigation system.

“The first year after you plant seedlings, they often don't look like much. Even in the second year, they frequently don't look good. But by the fourth or fifth year, they're chest high,” Rogers said. “It just takes patience.”

The dense thickets grown at Horsethief Canyon SWA from seedling stock – some now nearly 20 feet tall – offer prime habitat for many wildlife species and effectively minimize the sights and sounds of the nearby interstate. To date, 56 acres of the approximately 300 acres of agricultural land available on the state wildlife area are dominated by planted trees and shrubs, some which offer food for wildlife. Division of Wildlife Technician Tom Sanderson, who helps manage the state wildlife area, says the local birds and other animals really love the fruits produced by the planted shrubs.

“They've gotta get past me to get to the plums, though,” he jokes.

More Seedlings Now Being Planted

The Rocky Mountain juniper, buffaloberry, New Mexico privet and native plum plantings just south of the river have been so successful that the Division of Wildlife and CSFS are planting another 900 seedlings in May on the north side of the river. According to Derek Lovoi, a Division of Wildlife laborer involved in the project, the focus of this year's planting is to create a buffer between the highway and the river corridor that also will replace invasive tamarisk that was cut and removed last year.

“The end result will be a long, narrow, dense band of trees and shrubs that will provide a visual and noise barrier between the river and the highway,” Rogers said.

CSFS personnel will assist the Division of Wildlife with the planting by providing labor, technical assistance, a tree planting plow and a fabric-laying implement. The seedlings to be planted this month represent the first to be added to Horsethief Canyon SWA in five years, although the CSFS has continued to help landowners with seedling projects on nearby properties. Rogers says area wildlife and human users will need to be patient, as the seedlings planted this month won't offer significant benefits for several years.

Landowners interested in purchasing CSFS seedlings should contact the CSFS Grand Junction District at 970-248-7325.

Fourmile Canyon Fire Teams Tackle a Watershed Emergency

Most wildfires – even exceptionally large, destructive ones like the Fourmile Canyon Fire – run their course in less than a few weeks. But it takes years to rebuild homes and lives, reforest hillsides and stabilize steep slopes to prevent excessive erosion.

Flooding and erosion are top concerns in the aftermath of the Fourmile Canyon Fire, which burned more than 6,000 acres west of Boulder in September 2010.

Flooding and erosion are top concerns in the aftermath of the Fourmile Canyon Fire, which burned more than 6,000 acres west of Boulder in September 2010. The wildfire vaporized ground cover that normally would intercept rainfall and created water-repellent soils in severely burned areas. As a result, there is a significant risk for dangerous flooding, extreme erosion and heavy sedimentation downstream that could endanger life, damage property and degrade water quality. Recognizing this threat, state, federal and Boulder County agencies have formed two interagency teams to ensure that actions are taken to stabilize and protect affected soils in the burn area before this season’s first heavy rainstorms. The Fourmile Emergency Stabilization (FES) Team is helping mitigate runoff and erosion risks through widespread watershed rehabilitation operations, while the Fourmile Fire Rehabilitation Outreach Team simultaneously provides landowners impacted by the wildfire with ongoing information to address watershed threats.

“There will be impacts to the local watershed. It’s our goal to minimize those impacts,” said outreach team member Allen Owen, district forester for the Boulder District of the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS).

Stabilization Team Formed to Rehabilitate Landscape

Last September, soon after the Fourmile Canyon Fire was controlled, the FES Team formed to write a report detailing the watershed emergency created by the fire and provide options to mitigate related problems. The team realized that it would be difficult to provide emergency stabilization across the entire burn area due to the land ownership pattern within the fire perimeter: two-thirds of the acreage burned by the fire is on a patchwork of privately owned land, and the remaining acreage is divided between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), state and county.

To communicate the importance of the FES Team’s cross-boundary rehabilitation efforts and provide information about rehabilitating individual properties, the Fourmile Fire Rehabilitation Outreach Team was formed. The outreach team, which includes several members of the FES Team, is composed of natural resource specialists from Boulder County, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), CSFS, USFS, local conservation districts and Colorado State University Extension. The primary goal of the team is to provide education and outreach to area landowners about actions they can take to accelerate the recovery of the landscape, including cooperation on cross-boundary rehabilitation efforts. By reaching out to those impacted by the fire, the outreach team hopes to provide assistance to landowners and facilitate the recovery of a burn area that covers a mélange of different ownerships.

“We need to treat the burn area on a watershed scale to be effective,” Owen said. “Like the wildfire itself, future storm events won’t recognize property boundaries, so we need to work across them now.”

Short-Term Stabilization Requires Landowner Permission

Straw bales were installed immediately after the fire to trap sediment.

Protecting the barren, water-repellent soils from the first intense rainstorms is the principal goal of the two interagency teams. During the first few spring and summer seasons following an intense wildfire, before native vegetation has returned, erosion usually is much more severe due to the sheer amount of exposed soil. If this problem is not addressed in the Fourmile burn area, heavy rains could wash massive loads of dirt and debris from recovering hillsides onto roads, over culvert openings and into gulches that ultimately drain into Boulder Creek.

To mitigate watershed threats across the burn area, the FES Team is planning the widespread use of aerial mulching. The goal is to apply weed-free straw mulch by helicopter early this spring on 1,800 intensely burned acres with a slope of 20 degrees or more. Aerial application of mulch probably is the most effective way to reduce runoff and erosion because it addresses the entire landscape, allowing the mulch to take the place of grasses, pine needles, sticks and other natural litter that existed before the fire. The mulch intercepts raindrops before they hit bare soil, slowing them down and preventing them from freeing soil particles to run downhill. The NRCS, Boulder County and other government funds will cover the $2.2 million tab for broadcast seeding and aerial mulching operations.

Despite available funding, aerial mulching operations in the Fourmile burn area face a significant obstacle because the burned area straddles so many small, individually owned tracts of private land. To build consensus on aerial mulching plans and other soil stabilization operations, the teams held a series of community meetings over the fall and winter. At the meetings, landowners were asked to sign Emergency Watershed Protection Permits. The signed permits grant legal permission for watershed protection work that may directly impact more than 520 plots of private land, and also allow for the installation of sediment traps and sand bags. The teams hope to get 100-percent compliance.

“Getting everyone involved makes broad-scale stabilization measures possible,” Owen said. “The more stabilization we can do now, the less impact on water quality we’re going to have down the road.”

Owen says the community meetings and a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions about land rehabilitation released by the outreach team have helped inform local landowners about risks and concerns in the burn area. Outreach team members also have provided advice about restoration measures, such as seeding, on-the-ground mulching, planting seedling trees and safely removing dead trees. In addition, landowners are being encouraged to establish erosion barriers in the form of straw wattles or contour-felled logs – dead trees that are felled and anchored perpendicular to slopes to slow runoff and trap eroding soils.

Fire Chief Brett Haberstick of the burn area’s Sunshine Fire Protection District says the community meetings have done more than just provide technical rehabilitation information. “These meetings have been very valuable as gathering points for sharing stories and asking common questions,” Haberstick said. He says that some landowners may be leery of government agencies telling them how to care for their own land, but thinks the community meetings are useful at rapidly building trust. “If we don't do what is right now, the overall attempt to restore the landscape may be less effective in the future,” he said. Boulder County plans to recruit volunteers and local fire protection districts like Haberstick’s to help spread native seed along roadsides to reduce the risk of invasive weed colonization.

Seedling Trees – A Long-Term Erosion Solution

Although immediate soil stabilization measures will remain the primary concern for the next few years, the outreach team also is encouraging area landowners to think about long-term goals. Planting seedling trees is one of the best long-term solutions to rejuvenate burned forests and control erosion. As the trees grow, their spreading roots trap and retain soil, while their canopies intercept and disperse the energy of falling rain.

“Many plants will recover naturally after a wildfire,” said Randy Moench, manager of the CSFS Nursery in Fort Collins. “But planting seedling trees can accelerate regrowth and ensure that a variety of appropriate species recolonize a burned area, creating a healthier future forest.”

The CSFS Nursery has provided hundreds of thousands of inexpensive tree seedlings to reforest burned areas in the past, including part of the area burned by the 2002 Hayman Fire. To encourage replanting, the Longmont Conservation District, which distributes CSFS tree and shrub seedlings in Boulder County, currently is providing them at a reduced cost to those affected by the Fourmile Canyon Fire. Many species native to the area, such as ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper and Douglas-fir, are available for reforestation, soil retention and wildlife habitat improvement. The conservation district is helping landowners order and obtain the CSFS seedlings, while CSFS, NRCS and CSU Extension personnel provide planting workshops, technical advice and seedling survival tips.

Landowners Empowered by Team Efforts

“I’ve received numerous positive comments from landowners saying that these meetings are exactly what they need and that they are very impressed by the number of interagency staff in attendance,” said Garry Sanfaçon, Fourmile Canyon Fire recovery manager for Boulder County. “Clearly, this shows the dedication of Boulder County, the Colorado State Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, CSU Extension and the other agencies involved to provide the best service to help affected landowners recover.”

Fire Chief Haberstick also has been impressed by how the outreach team has provided valuable information and outreach to landowners through multiple venues. “These landowners are confronted with a dizzying amount of decisions that need to be made in the wake of the fire. But the team has been able to respond quite well to the variety of their needs,” Haberstick said.

In the end, the combined efforts of the rehabilitation and outreach teams not only will benefit local landowners and ecosystems, but also those living downstream from the watershed. Which is important because, as Owen puts it, “It’s all downhill to Boulder.”

Gov. Hickenlooper Stresses Intergency Cooperation to Fight Wildfires

DENVER – On Thursday, April 14, Gov. John Hickenlooper received the annual Colorado preseason fire briefing from the Colorado State Forest Service and other state and federal agencies that provide wildfire preparedness and response.

Colorado State Seal

“Colorado’s wildfire season has already begun and with extreme dry and warm conditions conducive to wildfire, we need to be prepared for an extended firefighting season,” said Hickenlooper. “We need all wildland fire responders to continue to work together to efficiently, effectively and safely manage wildfires and protect against loss of life and property.”

Gov. Hickenlooper credited the successful management of this season’s fires to planning and effective decision-making at each level of government, which has been supported by the state’s Wildfire Preparedness Fund that provides assistance to all of Colorado’s counties.

“Wildfires don’t respect boundaries, so it’s imperative that local, state and federal firefighters work together to manage wildfires in the most effective way possible,” said Hickenlooper. “The fact that no lives were lost during the Indian Gulch and Crystal fires is a testament to the preparation of the firefighters and to the relationships between the local, state and federal agencies responsible for managing wildfires.”

Hickenlooper, Jeff Jahnke, state forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service, and Tony Dixon, deputy regional forester for Region 2 of the U.S. Forest Service, urged Coloradans to take action to prevent and mitigate the damaging effects of wildfires by being vigilant when recreating on public lands and by implementing FireWise practices on private lands. FireWise focuses on reducing wildfire threat to life and property, and creating safe access to subdivisions for firefighters.

Jahnke said windy conditions and an abundance of dry fuels, a dangerous combination that already has contributed to large fires this spring, are expected to continue throughout much of Colorado going into the summer.

“We encourage landowners to take the opportunity to do what they can to keep firefighters safe,” Jahnke said. “The Colorado State Forest Service can provide technical assistance to help Coloradans living in fire-prone areas make their properties more defensible in case of a wildfire. These simple steps will help protect homes and communities and increase safety of firefighters.”

On April 1, Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center Predictive Services indicated that above-normal temperatures and drier than average conditions are expected across Colorado through the month of June. Such conditions could result in higher than normal potential for large fires across southern Colorado early this summer; however, precipitation and spring green-up are expected to bring fire potential in northeast Colorado back into the average range by early May.

Front Range Wildfires Highlight Importance of Planning to Protect Homes

The wind-driven fires in Jefferson, Boulder, Teller and Larimer counties since March, which led to the evacuation of hundreds of homes and burned thousands of acres, herald the start of an early wildfire season in Colorado.

Creating defensible space around a home.

With firefighters directly involved in structure protection on several of these incidents, the fires also highlight the need for landowners in the wildland-urban interface to address fire protection before flames race toward their homes.

“Although there is no guarantee firefighters will be able to save your home from a wildfire, the odds increase if you have created defensible space around the structures on your property,” said Lisa Mason, outreach forester for the Colorado State Forest Service and Colorado’s “Are You FireWise?” program lead. Defensible space refers to the area around a home or other structure where trees and other vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire.

Mason suggests that landowners take the following actions to create defensible space around their homes in preparation for wildfire:

  • Remove all flammable vegetation within 15 feet of any part of a home, including decks.
  • Thin standing trees within 75-125 feet of all structures, and locate the wider buffer below homes on steep terrain.
  • Allow at least 10 feet between the branches of standing trees.
  • Prune up tree branches to a height of at least 10 feet.
  • Dispose of slash, such as limbs and other woody debris, by chipping or piling and burning in winter (contact a CSFS District Office about how to safely and legally burn slash).
  • Keep grasses and weeds surrounding the home mowed to a height of less than six inches.
  • Stack firewood and locate propane tanks at least 30 feet from and uphill of structures.
  • Clear all vegetation within 10 feet of woodpiles, propane tanks, sheds and other structures.
  • Remove pine needles from gutters and trim overhanging branches.

In addition to creating defensible space, the CSFS emphasizes the importance of having fire-resistant roofing materials, because wood or shake shingles ignite easily. The CSFS also encourages subdivisions to establish Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) to effectively mitigate the risk of wildfire throughout entire neighborhoods.

Cooperators Reduce Wildfire Risk in Pueblo Mountain Park

Drive a half-hour southwest of Pueblo, Colo., and you’ll begin to see the charred hillsides left by the 12,000-acre Mason Gulch Fire. The fire, which burned in July 2005, forced the evacuation of 5,000 nearby residents before a fortunate shift in the wind ended its run.

An overgrown area in Pueblo Mountain Park before the forest-thinning project started. Photo by Steve Douglas

Approximately five miles south of the burn area, in the path where the fire was headed, you’ll find Pueblo Mountain Park. The forests here escaped the 2005 fire, but have forest conditions that could support a similar blaze.

Pueblo Mountain Park provides city dwellers the opportunity to hike, watch wildlife and picnic in native ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests. The park also is home to a valuable educational program for Pueblo’s fifth-graders. Until recent efforts to address forest health in the 600-acre park, the landscape was slowly becoming overgrown with a dense understory of vegetation that increased the risk of a dangerous crown fire. Thanks to a forest-thinning project started by a retired Pueblo County emergency management official, the park’s director and the Colorado State Forest Service, the culturally valuable park, its visitors and surrounding communities soon will be safer from wildfire.

The same area in Pueblo Mountain Park after forest-thinning work was completed.

“When this project is complete, the community will have a park that is much less vulnerable to fire,” says Director Dave Van Manen of the Mountain Park Environmental Center, a nonprofit that manages the park. MPEC’s current work with cooperators will create fuelbreaks to reduce fire risk, help protect improvements in the park, and enhance firefighter and visitor safety.

Park Provides Unparalleled Opportunity for City Kids

Dedicated to cultivating an understanding of nature, MPEC has managed Pueblo Mountain Park since 2008. Throughout the year, the nonprofit offers programs for all ages, including educational retreats, summer camps, yoga classes, horseback riding and guided hikes. However, the primary users of Pueblo Mountain Park are the fifth-grade students from the city’s public schools, who participate in the outdoor-based Earth Studies Program.

“The urban students we work with have little or no experience spending time in the woods,” Van Manen said. “Nothing tops the educational value of seeing firsthand what these forests look like.”

According to Van Manen, informal surveys of the students suggest that about 80 percent of Pueblo’s kids never even visit the mountains until the fifth grade, when they get their first chance in the Earth Studies Program. MPEC provides the hands-on outdoor science program to all of the city’s 1,200 fifth-graders, in addition to students from other schools, letting them experience the park’s diverse habitats. Students from 23 schools gain and apply scientific knowledge in a series of six visits throughout the school year, studying topics ranging from local wildlife to forest health. With forest thinning work currently being completed, the kids also get an education on the importance of managing forests to protect them from insects and catastrophic wildfire.

“Many people don't understand the important role of disturbance in maintaining forest ecosystems,” said John Grieve, district forester for the CSFS Cañon City District, which guides the park in implementing its forest management plan. “These kids are learning that this work is necessary to maintain a healthy forest.”

Park Had Become Overgrown

The first ongoing fuels mitigation work in the park began in 2002, when then-Pueblo County Emergency Management Director Steve Douglas approached the park with concerns about mountain pine beetle activity in its ponderosa pines. Having had extensive past experience as a wildland firefighter and an active interest in fire mitigation, he offered to coordinate removal of the infested trees.

After a discussion with the Pueblo City Council, MPEC and the CSFS Cañon City District, which serves Pueblo, Fremont and Custer counties, the city granted Douglas permission to organize the removal of approximately 300 beetle-kill trees. But beetles weren’t the only problem. A lack of natural, low-intensity ground fires over several decades had resulted in dense stands that could fuel a dangerous wildfire, as evidenced by the nearby Mason Gulch Fire.

“The park had become so overgrown that there were trails you couldn’t even walk down,” said Grieve, referring to a thick understory of Gambel oak, juniper and mountain mahogany. Grieve agreed with Van Manen and Douglas that the park’s forest could use an overhaul. He developed a forest stewardship plan for the park, which addressed such things as tree and stand structure, fuel loading, wildlife habitat and the presence of insect and disease activity. The CSFS also helped design and implement projects consistent with the plan, and administered grants that the park received to help with forest management efforts.

Douglas has been the primary workhorse on the projects. Using the CSFS forest management plan for guidance, he has led efforts to make the park’s forest healthier. Over the last decade, the scope of his and the park’s efforts has been expanded because of State Fire Assistance grant funds. SFA grants, administered by the CSFS and issued through a competitive process, are used to create more resilient forests and mitigate wildfire risk. In 2009, on behalf of MPEC, Douglas applied for an SFA grant to help the park further its efforts; a $50,000 matching grant was awarded by the CSFS in July 2010.

2010 CSFS Grant Funding Boosts Accomplishments

Grieve, Douglas and Park Maintenance Assistant John Oribello examine a tree infested by mountain pine beetles.

The park successfully treated more than 60 acres from 2002-2009, but the 2010 SFA grant award made it possible to treat even more forested acreage, and faster. The grant funds meant the park could employ the use of a Colorado Department of Corrections crew to treat an additional 94 acres in 2010-2012.

“This grant was what we needed to get this phase of the job done,” Douglas said.

The park committed $88,000 in matching funds to the 2010 grant in the form of MPEC staff salaries, equipment and volunteer hours. The plan is to create fuelbreaks and remove excess fuels along critical park boundaries, roadways and potential paths for intense fires. Grieve says the 300-foot-wide shaded fuelbreaks they are creating should keep fires on the forest floor and out of the tree crowns – without clearing all existing brush and timber.

“We identified likely paths for a wildfire to travel, and our efforts are taking place with the specific intent of creating significant breaks in these paths,” Van Manen said.

The CSFS coached Douglas and park staff on how to correctly identify and mark the best trees for removal. Next, a Colorado Correctional Industries State Wildland Inmate Fire Team (SWIFT), composed of 20 inmates from the Four Mile Correctional Center in Cañon City who are trained as wildland firefighters, began removing the marked trees. To date, more than 20 acres have been completed.

The SFA grant money and matching contributions should allow the park to build fuelbreaks along 2.7 miles of roads, trails and park boundary. This includes areas near roads, barbecue pits and picnic tables, which are more likely to have an ignition source. The fuelbreaks are primarily intended to protect the park and its visitors, but if a fire starts in the park or to the west, subdivisions to the east of the park also should benefit.

“Looking at it from a firefighter’s perspective, I want to provide safe routes,” said Douglas. He says the fuelbreaks not only will slow down a wildfire, but will allow park visitors to safely escape and provide safe access to firefighters.

In addition to the primary goal of wildfire hazard mitigation, forest thinning efforts in the park also should improve tree health and vigor, the park’s aesthetic value and wildlife habitat. Everyone involved with the project says that so far they have gotten only positive feedback from the public. “We were worried when we started cutting trees in the park that people might complain,” says Grieve. “But now in the park you can see more and do more.”

A Green Use for Cut Wood

Most of the wood from the current fuelbreak project is used to fire the lodge’s two huge GARN biomass boilers, which meet 98 percent of all its heat and hot-water needs.

The park’s 14,000-square-foot Horseshoe Lodge, recently renovated due to growing demand for MPEC programs, now offers classrooms, meeting space and overnight accommodations. The upgraded eco-facility includes green features such as composting toilets, bed-frames crafted from beetle-kill wood and the capacity to generate its own heat in the form of two biomass furnaces fueled by trees from the park’s fuelbreaks.

Van Manen says that the biomass boilers not only dispose of dead wood from cutting operations; they also prevent the park from paying high heating bills or burning fossil fuels. Most of the wood from the current fuelbreak project is used to fire the lodge’s two huge GARN biomass boilers, which meet 98 percent of all its heat and hot-water needs. The boilers consume a cord or more of wood each week, in the form of logs cut to 3-foot lengths. The remaining “slash,” consisting of smaller wood and branches, is stacked into 10-foot piles and burned during the winter months.

Douglas says that like the Horseshoe Lodge, he hopes the park’s forests will eventually get a complete restoration. “This work will allow the park to get a toehold so it can ultimately expand its forest management efforts,” he says. “We’ve got a great start.”

Living Snow Fences: A Green Way to Block Blowing Snow

Coloradans who want an inexpensive, long-term solution to prevent blowing snow from blocking driveways and access roads might consider snow fences grown from seedling trees.

A section of road remains clear where a living snow fence blocked blowing snow.

“Customers who planted our seedling trees in the past frequently tell us that the living snow fences they grew are more effective than artificial barriers built to block blowing snow,” said Randy Moench, manager of the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery in Fort Collins.

Moench says that landowners from Durango to La Veta to the Wyoming border have boasted this winter of the effectiveness of windbreaks grown from CSFS seedlings. The CSFS Nursery offers a wide variety of seedling trees ideal for planting in rows to block wind and snow, including Rocky Mountain juniper and eastern redcedar.

Planting a snow fence generally is more economical than building one, because the seedlings are inexpensive, long-lasting and do not require intensive maintenance. Planting seedlings also may appeal to some landowners as a carbon-capturing, green alternative to building fences from lumber and other materials. But Moench says one should expect a 10-year establishment time for living fences to become fully effective – which is why the CSFS Nursery encourages landowners to plant now.

CSFS seedling trees can also be planted to block wind year-round, enhance wildlife habitat, reduce soil erosion, protect livestock, reforest mountain properties, increase property values and reduce utility bills. Seedling orders are now being accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Landowners should order now, as several species have already sold out this year,” Moench said. He stresses the importance of contacting a local CSFS forester for guidance on planting seedlings.

To purchase seedling trees from the CSFS Nursery, landowners must own two or more acres of land, use the seedlings for conservation purposes, purchase minimums of 30 to 50 seedlings and agree not to use them for landscaping or resale as seedlings.

The CSFS seedling tree program was established to encourage Colorado farmers, ranchers and rural landowners to plant seedling trees for conservation purposes. For more information about purchasing CSFS seedling trees, visit our nursery's buying trees web page.

To learn more about living snow fences, please read our publication called Living Snow Fences: Protection That Just Keeps Growing (5.3 MB PDF) that is available in our online library.

CSFS Accepting Forest Legacy Program Proposals to Protect Private Forestlands

The Colorado State Forest Service currently is accepting Forest Legacy Program proposals from Colorado landowners. The program authorizes the U.S. Forest Service, through the CSFS, to purchase permanent conservation easements on private land to prevent forestlands from being converted to non-forest uses. The application deadline is July 24 for federal fiscal year 2013 funding.

Private forestland located in southwest Colorado.

The purpose of the Colorado Forest Legacy Program is to protect environmentally important private forest areas that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses.

The program provides an opportunity for private landowners to retain ownership and management of their land, while receiving compensation for unrealized development rights. To date, the CSFS has received more than $10.3 million in Forest Legacy funds that are protecting more than 12,000 acres of land from development throughout Colorado.

Private forestlands that support continued traditional forest uses and offer water resources, wildlife habitat and ecological, scenic, cultural or recreational value will receive priority. Landowners who elect to participate in the program are required to follow a land-management plan approved by the CSFS. Activities consistent with the management plan, including timber harvesting, grazing and recreation activities, are permitted.

“This program provides additional incentive to Colorado landowners to protect their private forestlands in perpetuity,” said Joe Duda, CSFS Forest Management Division supervisor. “By partnering with land conservation organizations, the Colorado State Forest Service is able to ensure that federal funding secures conservation easements on environmentally important forestlands for the benefit of future generations.”

The Colorado State Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee will evaluate proposals and recommend to the state forester those that have sufficient merit to forward to the U.S. Forest Service to compete at a regional level; those selected at the regional level will compete nationally for funding.

Applications are available on the CSFS Funding Opportunities web page. For additional information, contact the Colorado State Forest Service at (970) 491-6303.

CSFS Releases 2010 Forest Health Report

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, the Colorado State Forest Service released the 2010 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests at the annual Joint Ag and Natural Resources Committee hearing held at the State Capitol.

The 2010 Report on the Health of Colorado's Forests provides an overview of the current health and conditions of the state's forests.

Although the mountain pine beetle epidemic has largely run its course in north-central Colorado, insect and disease activity continued to stress the state’s forests in 2010.

“From dying walnut trees in cities along the Front Range to spruce beetles attacking high-elevation forests in southwest Colorado, we continue to have concerns about forests throughout the state,” said Jeff Jahnke, state forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service.

The 10th annual CSFS report highlights forest health concerns and documents the status of established forest pests, such as spruce beetle, as well as emerging threats, such as thousand cankers disease in black walnut. Thousand cankers disease was the primary concern in Colorado’s urban forests in 2010, killing walnut trees in 16 counties, mostly along the Front Range and in eastern Colorado.

Less visible and farther from population centers, spruce beetle infestations impacted a total of 208,000 high-elevation acres of spruce forest in 2010 – almost twice the area affected in 2009. The outbreak already has impacted most of the mature spruce forests in the upper Rio Grande Basin in southwest Colorado.

This year’s forest health report also indicates that attacks on lower-elevation ponderosa pine by mountain pine beetle on the northern Front Range have intensified, with a tenfold increase in affected acreage for this pine species. The heaviest mountain pine beetle activity occurred in a swath running through Larimer, Boulder, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties. The beetles have impacted approximately 3.2 million cumulative acres in Colorado since 1996, mostly in lodgepole pine forests.

The forest health report and two additional sources of information – the Colorado Statewide Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy – will help guide forest management decisions and programs for the next several years.

“The forest health report and the statewide assessment and strategy provide a basis from which to engage in public discussion about our future forests,” said Joe Duda, Forest Management Division supervisor for the CSFS. “This dialogue will allow us to manage these forests while meeting the needs and interests of our stakeholders.”

The 2010 Report on the Health of Colorado's Forests (3.7 MB PDF) is available in our online library.

Southwest Colorado Community Earns National Recognition for Wildfire Preparedness

Because of its efforts to reduce the vulnerability of homes and landscapes to wildfire, Deer Valley Estates recently earned Firewise Communities/USA® recognition from the National Firewise Communities.

Les Kole, FireWise ambassador (left) and Kent Grant, CSFS Durango District forester (center) present Firewise Communities USA® signs to John Beebe, Deer Valley HOA Board president.

Deer Valley Estates worked with the Colorado State Forest Service, US Forest Service, BLM and Upper Pine Fire Protection District to develop a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) that addresses the subdivision’s wildfire risk and what could be done to mitigate that risk. The plan was completed in 2009 and residents are currently working on implementing the prioritized list of actions in the CWPP.

“Here in southwest Colorado, fire is an important and natural phenomenon in many of our ecosystems, especially the ponderosa pine. To think that fire is just going to go away is naïve, so it only makes sense to expect and prepare for it. Wildfire should be taken into account as new communities are designed and built, but it is also important that established subdivisions ‘retrofit’ for wildfire,” said Kent Grant, Colorado State Forest Service District Forester. And, the Deer Valley CWPP does just that.

Deer Valley Estates is the first community in southwest Colorado to be recognized as Firewise Communities/USA, joining more than 600 other communities nationwide that have been recognized since the program’s inception in 2002.

Deer Valley Estates is the first community in southwest Colorado to be recognized as Firewise Communities/USA, joining more than 600 other communities nationwide that have been recognized since the program’s inception in 2002.

Read more about Deer Valley Estates in the story: CWPP Helps Residents with Wildfire Preparedness.

For more information about Firewise of Southwest Colorado, visit their website.

USFS and CSFS Announce Forest Health Survey Results

On Jan. 21, 2011, The US Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service announced the results of the 2010 forest health annual aerial survey.

Spruce regeneration, more than 40 years old, near the upper Rio Grande River in an area affected by spruce beetle.

Results reveal that the bark beetle infestation affected about 400,000 new acres in 2010 across the three forests in Colorado and southern Wyoming, bringing the total number of acres of infestation up to 4 million since the first signs of outbreak in 1996. This acreage includes lodgepole, five-needle and ponderosa pine tree types.

While the bark beetle continues to spread rapidly along the Front Range and into ponderosa pine trees, forest managers are focusing their efforts on public and employee safety to help protect them from the threat of falling trees and increased fire danger.

“We were extremely aggressive in 2010 with our efforts to remove trees killed by the bark beetle to reduce the risk of falling trees to forest visitors and employees,” said Tony Dixon, US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, Acting Regional Forester. “There is still much work to be done and we will use every tool available to continue this critical work, including work through valuable partnerships with sister agencies, communities, the wood products industry and others.”

“The Colorado State Forest Service works with approximately 8,500 landowners annually to help them address forestry concerns on their property and implement forest management plans that will reduce fire hazards and create more resilient forests,” said Jeff Jahnke, state forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service. “The annual aerial forest health survey is an important tool in identifying high-priority areas for treatment and helping landowners focus their efforts to achieve the greatest benefits.”

Continued cooperation among local, state and federal land management agencies, communities and private landowners is essential to efforts to mitigate fire hazards, protect communities and critical infrastructure, and restore forest health, say Dixon and Jahnke. Forest-based economies in Colorado that have been hardest hit by the beetle epidemic are working with forestry officials to find mutually beneficial solutions to the challenges associated with managing the impacts of the epidemic and creating resilient forests for the future.

Management of Colorado’s forests is especially important over the next few decades to provide a mix of age classes and tree species. Doing nothing would most likely result in several hundred thousand acres of the same age class of trees, setting the stage for another mass disturbance like the bark beetle epidemic. Forest management can help create healthy stands of trees that consist of diverse species and age classes that will be more resilient to insect and disease epidemics.

For complete survey results, including highlights and aerial survey maps, please visit the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region website.

2011 Colorado Arbor Day Poster Contest Announced

The Colorado Tree Coalition (CTC) and the Colorado State Forest Service proudly announce the 2011 Colorado Arbor Day Poster Contest.

The 2010 poster contest winner was Gina Young, a student from Dora Moore K-8 School in Denver.

This exciting, fun and educational opportunity is available to all fifth-grade students living in Colorado. Prizes are awarded to both the winning student and their teacher. We will recognize the statewide 2011 Colorado Arbor Day Poster Contest winner with a ceremony at the Colorado State Capitol during Arbor Week in late April.

The theme for this year’s contest is Celebrate Trees in Our Community. Only one entry per school or home school is allowed and all posters must be an original artwork created by the student.

The entry deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Tues. April 5, 2011.
Please submit posters in person or mail to:
Keith Wood
Colorado State Forest Service
9769 W. 119th Drive, Suite 12
Broomfield, CO 80021

Additional rules and submission requirements are available at the Colorado Tree Coalition website. All posters submitted are the property of the Colorado Tree Coalition and will not be returned.

Teachers and students are encouraged to visit the Colorado Project Learning Tree website for educational activities and creative ideas to link the poster contest with environmental learning opportunities. At this site you can also learn more about the United Nations 2011 International Year of the Forest.

Green-up the New Year – Recycle Your Tree

Trees are a valuable renewable resource, and recycling holiday trees naturally contributes to the process of giving these evergreens a second life.

Chipping the trees for mulch or compost is a common recycling practice. Many community recycling programs use the mulch in flowerbeds and around trees, and the wood chips also provide natural material for walkways and trails. Some programs allow residents to pick up the free mulch in the spring for personal landscaping purposes.

Stacked trees will be chipped for mulch at county landfills and recycling centers.

To prepare your tree for recycling, remove all ornaments, lights, tinsel, hooks, nails, wire, garland and any wrapping used to transport the tree. Flocked and artificial trees are not accepted at drop-off sites.

To locate a tree recycling program in your county, please visit the Recycle your Tree website or contact your local recycling center or landfill.

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