In response to the deteriorating health of Colorado’s forests, a watershed protection plan begins with treating and thinning 21,000 of 100,00 acres in Pike National Forest from Woodland Park to Manitou Springs.

The deterioration is the result of a reduction in active management, past fire-suppression policies and changing climate conditions, states a report titled “Healthy Forests, Healthy Watersheds, Healthy Communities.”

Colorado’s forests are at the crisis stage, said forestry consultant Lyle Laverty, reporting last week to the Green Mountain Falls Board of Trustees.

In 2015, Colorado forests lost 266,000,000 cubic feet of trees due to fire. “Go down to Bronco stadium, start stacking 266,000,000 cubic feet of wood and it would go from the end zone to end zone, sideline to sideline and would be 5,000 feet high,” he said. “That’s how much we lost in one year.”

Last year, the U.S.Forest Service treated 60,000 of 2 million acres of trees identified as a high-priority area, the report states. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a mad wizard to figure out how long it’s going to take to treat those 2 million acres,” Laverty told the board. “I’ll do the math for you: 33 years.”

In addition to the 2 million acres, an infestation of mountain pine or spruce beetle has killed trees in another 3 to 5 million acres, he added.

In 2017, the total cost of suppressing fires was nearly $3 billion, Laverty said, adding that insurance losses in California, due to the Camp and Paradise fires, are estimated to be $12 to $14 billion.

Laverty is a consultant on Colorado Springs Watershed Protection Plan, a collaboration of Colorado Springs Utilities, the U.S. and Colorado state forest services to mitigate fire risk along the U.S. Highway 24 corridor.

Laverty said he is encouraged by the executive order from President Donald Trump in December to remove hazardous fuels to better prevent catastrophic fires.

“We believe our proposal to the forest service is perfect timing because we have a solution,” he said.

Appropriate that evening was the board’s approval of an ordinance regarding fire restrictions.

In addition, the board approved the application submitted by the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association for an event in town Aug. 11. The event includes a 22.5-mile motorcycle ride to Pikes Peak and back to the center of town.

Pikes Peak Courier Reporter

Pikes Peak Courier Reporter

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