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The Hot and Dry West is killing our forests

High Country News, Sept 28, 2014

Severe fires, unprecedented bark beetle infestations, heat and drought — all exacerbated by climate change — are killing trees throughout the Rocky Mountains. So whether you're a fan of New Mexico's piñon pines, Colorado's aspens or Montana's whitebark pines, the West's forests could look radically different in 50 to 100 years. That's the message of a report released last week by the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists and the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.

The authors want people to see dead trees as a...


Summit County’s workforce housing bill heads to White House for president’s signature

The Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act is on its way to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature. Late Wednesday, July 9, the bill to convey 40 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in the White River National Forest to Summit County for affordable workforce housing passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate by a voice vote. Once the bill is signed by the president, local officials can begin working with the Forest Service to purchase the land. READ MORE

Forest Health Task Force looks to expand monitoring program in Summit County

The Forest Health Task Force in Summit County is working to plant the seeds for a larger program this year. At a meeting last Thursday, Jan. 16, the Forest Health Task Force continued to work on planning expansion for the 2014 volunteer forest-monitoring program. The program currently has 20 volunteers, and is looking for about 30 more to help work on upcoming forest research and data collection. Task force president Howard Hallman said the mission of the organization in is to educate the public on forest health and wildfire issues and to monitor long-term forest conditions. As the group plans for 2014, Hallman said it wants to expand the volunteer monitoring program to include all of Summit County, where volunteers will be trained to follow U.S. Forest Service protocol to document forest change, providing detailed data on growth and climate. (SDN, Jan 21, 2013) READ MORE

Summit County fall needle drop a natural turn of events, not an epidemic

With autumn just around the corner, the changing leaves in the valleys and on mountainsides are beginning to provide vibrant color displays for outdoors lovers. Thousands of evergreens are also undergoing a less-attractive transformation. The trees are exhibiting dying orange and brown needles.READ MORE (SDN 9/21/13)

Colorado’s Crystal Wildfire survivor briefs Summit County homeowners

Homeowners are the first responders to an emergency — not firefighters or police. "Whether it's a fire or medical emergency, the minutes you have between identifying the situation and fire or cops show up may be a matter of life and death," said Forest Health Taskforce member Howard Hallman. The more homeowners are prepared for an emergency, such as a wildfire, the more likely they will survive and rebuild their lives, he said...READ MORE (Summit Daily News, Aug22)

Forest Service seeks input on clear-cutting projects around Keystone

SDN, Aug 26, 2014

The Forest Service hosted a meeting Wednesday, Aug. 20, to give Summit County residents a chance to provide input before the agency designs a vegetation management plan, mostly clear-cutting, for specific areas around Keystone.

"It's easier if people come to the table earlier on," said Brett Crary, silviculturalist with the White River National Forest, rather than a couple of years into the planning process.

About 10 residents...


Cacace: Ophir Mountain clear-cutting is unnecessary surgery

The patient has survived the disease, but surgery will go on ... " This unnecessary surgery is not being performed at Summit Medical Center but on Ophir Mountain between Breckenridge and Frisco by large, mechanized, "Avatar"-like tree cutters funded by the U.S. Forest Service....READ MORE (SDN,4/16/14)

Summit County forest health group pines to streamline its tree-centric mission

A local nonprofit that started with a mission to educate the public about the mountain pine beetle epidemic in Summit County nearly a decade ago is joining forces with others to define its role in modern forest management. The Forest Health Task Force (FHTF) conducted the second in a series of meetings intended to coordinate the efforts of the various groups working on forest health, wildfire and emergency preparedness issues throughout the county and state. "The Forest Health Task Force wants to be more effective in getting the job done, and part of that is understanding what other people are doing and not being redundant or butting heads," said task force director Howard Hallman. (SDN Oct16, 2013) READ COMPLETE ARTICLEhallmansdnphoto10162013

Colorado’s lodgepole pines beset with a burgeoning bug infestation

A tiny, unassuming Colorado insect has been spotted making a big mark on lodgepole pines. Foresters are finding that the insect, called pine needle scale, has been causing lodgepoles to appear sickly, with yellowing or fading needles. While it's normal to see pine needle scale occurring naturally in the woods, this year foresters are seeing entire areas where infestations are impacting the health and vigor of trees. "To be honest, we aren't 100 percent certain why the populations have increased so dramatically," said Ryan McNertney, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service Granby District... READ MORE  Summit Daily News, Sept 6, 2013)

In Summit County, increased temps, beetle epidemic changing wildfire behavior

Summit County residents are accustomed to looking out their windows onto rocky peaks covered with lush vegetation in shades of green and brown. In the case of a major wildfire, this vivid landscape could turn into a barren scene of charcoal-colored wood and scorched earth. Localized storms after wildfires can easily turn to floods that bring down debris, take out roads and damage waterways. As hard as it is to imagine, this dismal picture could turn into a reality, said hydrologist and Forest Health Task Force member Brad Piehl at a community meeting titled "After the Fire" in Frisco on Wednesday. "Looks can be deceptive," said Forest Health Task Force member Howard Hallman. "When it appears the conditions are moist and cool and everything is growing, we begin to think everything is OK, but that can change quickly." Although Summit has fared better than other parts of Colorado in terms of wildfires in recent years, local fire-safety advocates said the worst could be yet to come. "Our big fire window is late in the year after the growing season. When vegetation and undergrowth starts turning brown and drying out that fuel is ready to burn," Piehl said. "Usually in Summit County that's going to be in September." READ MORE