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Summit County: How do you measure forest recovery?

Local forest health group to discuss restoration and monitoring at a Sept. 15 lunch meeting in Frisco; the public is invited

The Summit Forest Health Task Force will focus on restoration and monitoring at a Sept. 15 lunch session.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After nearly a decade of pine beetle infestation and widespread clear-cutting in Summit County, the local forest health task force is starting to look at how to monitor and measure the success of forest health treatments.

At the group’s Sept. 15 lunch meeting at the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco, Dr. Tony Cheng, director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute will lead a conversation about how to enhance  capacities of local land managers, landowners, governments, and communities to mitigate forest wildfire risk and restore forest resilience.

Key steps include developing a consensus about desired future forest conditions and establishing a monitoring program to assess the effectiveness of forest treatments.

Cheng will describe elements of the congressionally-established Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Plan, which encourages science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes.

Participants who would like to order lunch (on their own) are encouraged to arrive at 11:30 am, when complete menu service will be available. Since seating is limited, attendees are advised to contact Howard Hallman at future1946@yahoo.com to reserve a place at the roundtable.

The discussions could focus in part on the differences between restoration, which implies active intervention to help recovery in degraded ecosystems, versus recovery, which implies a naturally functioning ecosystem with adequate resources for development without any intervention.

Cheng suggests that since pine beetles are a natural part of lodgepole pine ecosystems, high country forests probably haven’t been degraded to the point that they require human intervention to recover. But the unprecedented scope of the beetle invasion will likely mean changes in the forest.

Researchers have already documented a greater variety of species in recovering forests, including subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, and aspen, but with plenty of lodgepole still coming back, as well.
According to Cheng, communities affected by the lodgepole die-off also should think about the social, economic, and cultural perspectives.

Some factors to consider are:
· Increased tree species diversity
· Increased wildlife and plant diversity
· Changing water yield – quantity, timing
· Changing wildfire hazards, decreased ability to suppress fires, and post-fire impacts on water in-take facilities
· Loss of a “healthy” forest, where “healthy forest” = green, living trees
· Increase in subalpine fir, which is also susceptible to large-scale die-offs and easier to burn
· Loss of “sense of place”
· Loss of aesthetic/scenic values
· Loss of economically viable timber for a struggling industry in Colorado
· Increased risk to safety and damage to property and infrastructure

Dr. Cheng holds the position of Associate Professor of  Forestry and Natural Resource Policy for the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where he has been a faculty member since 2000.

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One Response

  1. Really worthwhile to attend. It’s going to take more than just the Forest Service to bring this to fruition, hence the involvement of the citizens too, especially with the powers of the purse strings screaming the sky is falling.

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