The aspen and spruce mortality rate across Colorado has grown alarming in the past decade. In the 2016 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests, the Colorado Forest Service estimated that the state has 834 million standing dead trees–1 in 14 trees.
A byproduct of droughts and extremely hot summers, sudden aspen decline (SAD) claimed 145,000 acres of aspen forest within the Grand Mesa, Gunnison, and Uncompahgre National Forests. The damage occurs rapidly. In aerial surveys in 2005 and 2006, mortality increased from less than 25,000 acres to greater than 138,000 acres across Southwest Colorado.
The spruce beetle epidemic, meanwhile, is responsible for the death of an additional 140,000 acres of spruce-fir forest. A spruce beetle infestation takes two years to kill a tree. In the first year, the spruce beetle burrows into the tree, and it will look debarked. By the second year, the needles will have faded and turned orange or yellow, and then fall off.
Once afflicted, the standing dead trees pose safety and health risks. They fuel wildfires, and falling trees may take down power lines or block roads. Forests provide a natural filtration system for water, and 80% of the state’s population depends on forested watersheds. These dual threats spurred the US Forest Service to form the Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response (SBEADMR) Project. Started in 2013, SBEADMR Project focuses on regenerating healthy spruce-fir and aspen stands.
The Public Lands Partnership facilitates the SBEADMR Advisory Management Group. They are leading an educational and groundtruthing hike at Hubbard Park and Overland Reservoir on August 23rd. The hike is part of the post-treatment field review. Because SBEADMR is an 8-12 year adaptive management plan, these evaluations inform future management practices.
Interested parties can sign up below, and meet at the Paonia Ranger District (403 Rio Grand Ave.) at 8:15 AM on August 23rd.