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Colorado: Skier donations build forest conservation legacy

National Forest Foundation awards $650,000 for stewardship work

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Ski area visitors leave behind a year-round stewardship legacy when they contribute to the Ski Conservation Fund. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Thanks to voluntary contributions from ski resort visitors, the the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation will partner to invest about $650,000 in forest restoration and recreation projects. The donations are collected in a voluntary add-on to ticket and lodging sales, a dollar or two at a time.

The grants were awarded recently to organizations like the Blue River Watershed Group, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, the Colorado Mountain Club and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program for projects like trail improvements, wildlife habitat enhancement, tree planting and stream restoration. Continue reading

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Study: Colorado forests not doomed

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New dawn for Colorado’s beetle-killed forests.

Intensive research shows vigorous regrowth in beetle-killed tracts

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After years of uncertainty over the future of Colorado’s forest landscapes, a new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists puts the recent pine epidemic into perspective.

The insect outbreak ultimately will result in more diverse and resilient forests in the long run, adding structural complexity and species diversity, researchers with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station concluded after carefully monitoring regrowth in beetle-killed stands.

New growth is surging under the dying lodgepole canopy with the vertical growth rate of lodgepole and fir doubling in beetle-killed areas that were left untreated after the epidemic. Harvested stands also showed strong lodgepole regrowth, with aspen gaining ground in some places.

“Forests come and go … It’s not a crisis, but this was an amazing synchronism,” Forest Service biogeochemist Chuck Rhoades said of the massive pine beetle outbreak that will alter the forest landscape of the Southern Rockies for generations to come.

The bugs swarmed across vast swaths of the Canadian Rockies; they’ve invaded the Front Range and moved east to the Dakotas, especially the forests of the Black Hills.

“This event is not over, but the fear part should be over,” said Rhoades, who, with a team of researchers from the Fort Collins-based Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, has been carefully studying regeneration in beetle-killed areas. “But the idea of forest health and maintaining forest ecosystem processes is something we’ll always be thinking about,” he said. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Don’t blame enviros for large fires

A map showing the boundaries of the Four Forests restoration initiative.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s hard to believe that anyone would want to score political points in the aftermath of a large and destructive wildfire.

But that’s exactly what happened as the massive Wallow Fire in Arizona waned, when several members of Arizona’s congressional delegation tried to blame damage caused by the Wallow fire on lawsuits filed by environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity.

Trying to place the blame externally is a typical, and in some cases understandable reaction in many situations, as it’s easier to quickly point fingers instead trying to understand somewhat complex topics like fire ecology, forest restoration and global warming science. But when it’s done cynically to win votes, it’s inexcusable.

It’s even more sad that some of the same politicians seeking to blame environmental groups are the same ones who refuse to acknowledge global climate change, and the same ones who repeatedly seek to slash public land agency budgets, further hampering efforts to restore national forests. Continue reading

Summit County: Expert panel eyes future forest health

June 30 meeting will address emerging impacts to Colorado’s mountain forests

What will our future forests look like? A panel of experts will discuss the question at the June 30 Summit County Forest Health Task Force luncheon.

SUMMIT COUNTY — This week’s luncheon meeting (June 30) of the Summit County Forest Health Task Force will focus on how to optimize future forest conditions with the limited resources available to land managers.

A panel of forest experts and ecologists will discuss what kind of forest management practices are under discussion to address emerging human and climate impacts on high-altitude forests in Colorado.

The meeting is from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Spencer’s Restaurant at the Beaver Run Conference Center in Breckenridge. The buffet lunch costs $11 per person. Confirm attendance with Howard Hallman via email at future1946@yahoo.com. Continue reading

Summit County: Help restore Straight Creek

 Work day will focus on building erosion control structures

Volunteers at a 2009 trail-building day

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Greenlands Reserve Land Trust and the Forest Health Task Force are looking for volunteers for a June 18 water quality project in the Straight Creek watershed. The project is to build erosion control structures in areas where timber cutting has been completed.

If you are interested, please sign up with the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District by June 16 so that they can get a head count for sufficient tools and crew leaders.

Continue reading

Arizona wildfire prompts call for massive forest restoration

Decades of fire suppression and insect infestations have created a tinderbox in millions of acres of forests across the West

The 400,000-acre Wallow Fire continues to burn almost unchecked in overgrown ponderosa pine forests.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The massive Wallow Fire in east-central Arizona has prompted renewed calls for landscape-scale forest restoration efforts to reduce the amount of fuel loading.

“Decades of scientific research reveal that the West is suffocating under too many trees,” said Wally Covington, Regents professor of forest ecology at Northern Arizona University and executive director of NAU’s Ecological Restoration Institute. “Where we once had 10 to 25 trees per acre, we now have hundreds.”

Forest experts have warned for years that millions of small-diameter trees are a threat to the nation’s forests. The Wallow Fire has now burned more than 400,000 acres and is only 6 percent contained, making it the second-largest fire in Arizona history behind the massive Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2002. Continue reading

National Forests in Colorado get restoration grants

$1.4 million to help projects on Front Range and West Slope

Moose browse in willows on the Araphoe National Forest, part of a Front Range forest restoration partnership recently awarded a $1 million federal grant.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A few National Forests in Colorado will be able to tackle some long-needed restoration projects with $1.4 million in federal grant funding for collaborative partnerships announced last week.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the selection of Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration projects in nine states that promote healthier, safer and more productive public lands. The projects include partnership efforts on forest restoration treatments that reduce wildfire risk, enhance fish and wildlife habitats, and maintain and improve water quality. Continue reading

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