On a recent tour of the Hayman burn southwest of Denver, forestry professionals reported that the density of many western forests prior to European settlement – based on historic tree-ring studies – was between 50 to 200 trees per acre. Much of the Hayman area had 400 to 1000 trees per acre. This density played a large part in causing “canopy fires” that rapidly spread from treetop to treetop, creating fire temperatures that stymied suppression efforts.
There is no longer a density problem in the Hayman area (and likely won’t be for at least the next 100 years). The bad news is that there are 138,000 acres of charred moonscape that don’t have enough foliage left to hold soil, sustain wildlife, or regenerate itself.
Smack dab in the middle of this devastation is an 8000-acre inholding owned by the Denver Water Board which had been previously thinned and, while still burned, remains intact of foliage and stands in stark contrast to the barren landscape surrounding it. A mute and somber testament to the necessity of proactive thinning of overgrown forests.
CLUB 20 has long advocated for more proactive and flexible management of our public forested lands: not just to protect our forests from fire (although forest thinning is probably our best defense against the uncontrollable fires we experienced in 2002); not just for the additional water conservation benefits (although better forest management would most certainly increase water yields that have continually declined as the tree density has increased); not just for the improved wildlife habitat, (although proper thinning will yield more canopy diversity and healthier habitat); and not just so we can take advantage of the commercial timber value (although we are currently wasting most of this economic opportunity).
CLUB 20 supports more proactive management because, as the society that inhabits and impacts this ecosystem, we have a responsibility to take care of it.
On Jan. 11, CLUB 20 is proud to host a forest health conference in Vail: “Seeing the Forest for the Trees.” This one-day conference will bring together some of the best minds in the country to discuss the condition of our forests and how we can improve overall forest health. A program agenda and registration form will be distributed at the end of this week in PDF format and hard copy.
If you have any questions about this summit or other CLUB 20 activities, please call or email our office (email@example.com).
Reeves Brown is president of CLUB 20.
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