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Scientists caution against too much post-fire logging

Burned areas a critical piece of overall forest health

Post-fire landscapes are important in the big picture of long-term forest health. bberwyn photo.

Post-fire landscapes are important in the big picture of forest health. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With political momentum growing in support of more logging, a group of leading scientists is trying to counterbalance the forest crisis mythology that has developed in the past few years. That mythology has no basis in science and is promulgated to support a political agenda.

In an open letter to the U.S. Congress, the scientists asked Congress show restraint in speeding up logging in the wake of this year’s wildfires, most notably the Rim fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

It’s important to recognize that the scientists are not saying that there should neve be any logging, anywhere. Rather, the decisions need to be made in a measured way, considering all the environmental implications and the role that burned areas have in the bigger picture of long-term forest health. Continue reading

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Study: Drought the prime driver of spruce beetle outbreak

Long-term climate shifts linked with historic spruce beetle episodes in Colorado

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A Colorado spruce forest near Shrine Pass, Colorado.

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Spruce beetles are spreading rapidly and killing trees in the southern Rockies.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The current spruce beetle outbreak in Colorado’s high country has the potential to grow larger in scope than the recent mountain pine beetle epidemic that killed mature lodgepole pines across millions of acres.

And the trigger of for the spruce beetles is drought that’s linked with long-term changes in sea-surface temperatures in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, a trend that is expected to continue for decades, according to a new study by scientists with the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The new study is important because it shows that drought is a better predictor of spruce beetle outbreaks in northern Colorado than temperature alone, said Sarah Hart, a CU-Boulder doctoral student in geography. Continue reading

New insect pest hits Colorado’s beleaguered forests

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Pine needle scale directly affects the needles of conifers. Photo courtesy Oregon State University.

Outbreak on pine needle scale  reported in Grand County, ground zero for the pine beetle infestation

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado forest health experts say there’s a new pest on the loose in one of the areas hardest hit by mountain pine beetles.

Pine needle scale is affecting patches of trees in Grand County, where residents have reported ailing lodgepole pines in recent months.

The tiny bug latches on to pine needles and sucks them dry. They can affect any age tree and generally don’t cause trees to die, although a heavy infestation can lead to mortality, according to Ryan McNertney, assistant district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service Granby District. Continue reading

Sunday magazine: Mushroom mania in Colorado

From tasty meals to myco-remediation …

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One of the more unusual fungi found in Colorado forests. bberwyn photo.

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Chanterelles.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Fungi fanatics are calling it one of the best seasons in recent memory, as steady summer rains spurred a bumper crop of stinky squid, shaggy ink cap and purple slime mushrooms, not to mention delectables like porcini and chanterelles.

This past weekend, a handful of Colorado towns held festivals to celebrate mushrooms in all their diverse glory — if we’re all connected intellectually via the electronic web, then we’re probably also connected biologically, and fungi are one of the key threads that holds the web of life together.

In Telluride, amidst the good-natured fun of mushroom-themed parades and cook-fests, scientists discussed the latest research on myco-remediation. There’s promise that known — along with as-yet unstudied species — that fungi could help with a wide range of environmental and human health issues.

The mushroom festival maintained a lively social media feed on Twitter, sharing images like this:

In some situations, fungi could help clean up lead contamination, and Forest Service scientists are trying to improve restoration of dwindling whitebark pine forests with fungal applications.

In Scandinavia, forest researchers have discovered that fungi play a greater role in the carbon cycle than previously understood, and there are also concerns that a warmer and wetter future world could spur the growth of forest-killing fungi. Continue reading

Op-ed: Teamwork needed to protect forests, watersheds

Active forest management needed to protect water supplies

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A beetle-kill forest clear cut near Dillon Reservoir, Summit County, Colorado.

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Colorado State Forester Mike Lester.

By Mike Lester

A Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior to reduce the risk and impacts of catastrophic Western wildfires was signed last week in Fort Collins. The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership was good news for anyone who cares about the health of our forests, pays a water bill or worries about wildfires.

The Colorado State Forest Service is proud to be part of a similar local partnership that is being viewed as the first of six WWEP pilot programs in the West to improve forest and watershed health, and help mitigate wildfire risk. The Colorado-Big Thompson Headwaters Partnership focuses on the headwaters of the Colorado and Big Thompson rivers in Northern Colorado. Partners include the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation. Continue reading

Global warming likely to slow forest regrowth after fires

Warming climate increases moisture stress, making it tougher for seedlings to take hold and grow

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Global warming is likely to be a factor in forest regeneration after wildfires. This is the East Peak Fire, burning in June, 2013, on the east slopes of the Spanish Peaks above Walsenburg, Colorado. Photo courtesy Don Degman/Inciweb.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A warming climate in the West may slow or, or even stop, conifer forest regeneration in drier, low-elevation areas after big forest fires. In some cases, they may never grow back, instead converting to shrub and grasslands, according a new Oregon State University study.

The researchers concluded that moisture stress is a key limitation for conifer regeneration following stand-replacing wildfire. Both wildfires and more dryness are projected for big parts of the West by most climate models. This will make post-fire recovery on dry sites slow and uncertain. If forests are desired in these locations, more aggressive attempts at reforestation may be needed, they said. Continue reading

Opinion: Letter from western governors a misguided, muddled attempt to hijack national forest management

Let science, not politics, guide forest management

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One man’s healthy forest is another man’s tree farm. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Flying in the face of science, the Western Governors’ Association last week called on the U.S. Forest Service to do more logging in an effort to promote forest health.

The letter, signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Utah Gov. Gary. R. Herbert, also seems to suggest that privatizing some activities on publicly owned national forest lands could help address what they called a forest health crisis — without a single mention of global warming or the crucial restorative role of wildfires in forest ecosystems. Continue reading

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