Colorado: Forest Service thinks logging in drought stressed Aspen forests improves vigor?

Preliminary results from an aerial survey of the Rio Grande National
Forest show a familiar pest has expanded its reach and a new malady is
striking the forest’s aspen stands. The infestation of spruce beetles
expanded by 42,500 acres, but for the first time foresters are seeing
significant signs of sudden aspen decline on the 1.8 million-acre
forest. It is a condition that has plagued forests on the Western
Slope and the Four Corners area in recent years. The largest pockets
of aspen decline are in Saguache County with 13,800 acres and in
Mineral County with 8,200 acres. The forest service believes stands
that retain some vigor but are starting to deteriorate, may be
stimulated by burning or cutting to stimulate new growth.

MikeĀ  Blakeman, a public affairs officer with the Rio Grande National
Forest, said researchers have not identified a way to stop the spread
of the decline, although some forest projects do include small clear
cuts of aspen between 15 and 30 acres to spur regeneration. Colorado
Wild, which is often one of the forest’s biggest critics when it comes
to logging projects and the salvaging of dead trees, is waiting to see
how the forest service’s aspen treatments in other forests turn out.
“Right now we just don’t know enough to really say,” said Ryan Demmy
Bidwell, the Durango group’s director. Bidwell said they were waiting
to see how the agency’s use of prescribed burns and some tree
harvesting will work. But he said that natural disturbances, like
lightning-caused fire, may help stir the next generation of aspen
trees. “There’s not going to be one silver bullet that resolves this,”
he said.

“There’s probably a lot of things that need to happen and
allowing natural disturbances is part of it.” The surveys also showed
a rise in spruce bark beetle infestation, though Blakeman cautioned
that the results may not show the full extent of the outbreak, since
early signs of infestation are difficult to spot from the air. The
survey results tentatively peg the total infestation in the forest at
181,000 acres, although that figure may include some acreage from
neighboring national forests. Blakeman listed one project under way
and another three that were on the drawing board to harvest infested
trees. Two projects in the southern end of the forest would also clean
up blown-down trees, which the agency believes make surrounding areas
more susceptible to the bugs. Blakeman said the market is down for
spruce, due largely to the country’s economic recession. The market
for aspen, which he said can be used for paneling and landscaping
material, remains strong.

Leave a comment

Your comment