Forest Health Roundtable Notes, August 29

Cary Green, US Forest Service Timber Management Assistant for the White River National Forest's Eastern Zone, reported on the status of forest health stewardship contracts in the Dillon Ranger District (Summit County).

Wildland fuel mitigation treatments are now complete on 7690 acres, an area showing healthy lodgepole pine regeneration. Aspen propagation is evident where the overstory has been removed while spruce and fir are thriving in less exposed areas.

The mountain pine beetle infestation appears to have stopped between Tiger Run and the Breckenridge town limits , with areas south exhibiting normal background levels of the insects.

Wildland fuel mitigation remains our priority. Brad Piehl noted that the Front Range Fuels Roundtable reports $40 million will be made available for projects there. Sloan Shoemaker emphasized the importance of increased funding for all affected areas.

Lyle Laverty observed that a 7,000 acre a year rotation over a twenty year cycle would treat 140,000 acres. Given the 10-20k per acre true cost of fire suppression, any additional investment in mitigation is a wise policy. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has a $9 million emergency watershed restoration fund for the entire country; One hundred million dollars are needed in Colorado alone. http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/

Carl Spaulding spoke about the declining support for the Colorado timber industry. Small sawmills can't afford to bid on timber contracts. He estimates that standing dead trees should be harvested over the next two to three years. After that, their value for as dimensional lumber will be gone.

Lyle sees the value in small mill operators. The USFS regional office hasn't yet managed timber sales to make economic sense. We should have market-based models that work absent government subsidies. Carl noted that most wood removal subsidies go toward non-timber (biofuel) use. Front range ponderosa pine produces low value saw timber. Sloan mentioned that our objective should be matching needs with timber industry capability. Local contractor Mike Morgan was touted as an example of the type of steward we need.

A timber program must include the use of saw log size green trees to be sustainable. Brad reiterated our purpose as helping to determine a vision for what values are to be accommodated in the future forest. Subsequent meetings could promote a process to explore what values the community think are important and what change in the trajectory of the forest would be best.

Dan Schroeder from the county CSU extension office, who also serves as the executive director of the county's Wildfire Council, wants to counter a sense of helplessness affecting some in the community by encouraging landowners to create defensible space around their buildings. The aesthetic of living in the forest has changed to include glades and view corridors. Areas clearcut several years ago are now exhibiting growth in groundcover

of Excel Energy reported that the utility is mitigating hazards along transmission lines through drop, lop and scatter. Mastication is being pursued to minimize depth of chip beds. Hazard tree patrols cover the affected areas on a two year cycle.