Forest Service planning fire mitigation efforts north of Parshall, seeking public input
Contact project lead Kevin Thompson with comments or questions.
Mail: Attention: Kevin Thompson - 300 Roselawn Ave, Yampa, CO, 80483
The U.S. Forest Service is planning a fire mitigation project using prescribed fire to clear dead mountain pine trees in up to 3,000 acres in the Arapaho National Forest later this year.
Utilizing aerial and ground ignition, the Middle Fork Prescribed Fire Project would address declined forest health, help restore ecological function and promote future resilience. The Forest Service is asking for public input until March 21 and plans to hold a town hall on the project later this month.
The project area is located north of Parshall and south of Forest Road 730 and Troublesome Pass, in the central part of the Troublesome Geographic area. It is located in a part of the Arapaho National Forest managed by the Routt National Forest – Parks Ranger District.
According to the Forest Service, this area was hit particularly hard by the pine beetle epidemic with 85 percent mountain pine mortality in some areas. Currently, many beetle kill trees in the area are in the ghosting phase, which means they have lost all their needles, and the bark has started to or has completely fallen off, giving the trees a gray color.
This phase is particularly dangerous because trees fall to the ground at high rates, causing safety concerns and creating more fuel for wildfires, increasing the likelihood that the fires will have high intensity conditions.
Over 90 percent of the project area is currently at a higher risk for severe fires than natural and there is a risk of loss of key ecosystem components if nothing is done, according to the project proposal.
It is important to address this area while the beetle kill trees are still mostly standing because concerns about fire and safety increase with the number of dead trees on the forest floor.
The purpose of the project is to promote forest regeneration and protect human safety by removing beetle kill trees, according to the Forest Service. Prescribed fires would help the natural restoration process through the regeneration of various conifers, aspen and understory species.
Ultimately, the project hopes to provide an increased capacity to address any future wildfires in the area and improve access for hunters and recreators. It would also protect private inholdings, nearby properties and units of potential merchantable timber, as well as reduce concerns for potential fires near Highway 125.
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In response to a heightened fire risk, Grand County commissioners unanimously approved Tuesday a move into a Stage 1 fire ban that goes into effect at noon Wednesday.