This land nourishes us. It provides shelter, feeds our bodies, our senses, our minds, our spirits. I believe we owe something in return. As mountain residents, we have a stewardship responsibility to this land, for the ecological welfare of our individual acreage, as well as the 563 acres of community Green Belts.
We are only now beginning to understand the impact of 150 years of wildfire suppression. This massive overgrowth of trees restricts light to the understory, reducing plant, insect and wildlife diversity. As the planet warms, these dense forests become more susceptible to drought and disease which, in turn, increases the risk and severity of wildfires. Unlike the clearcutting of past eras, current forestry science calls for restoring our forests to something closer to their pre-suppression state. It’s beautiful landscaping that takes into consideration the contours, soil and moisture, old growth, and micro climates of the land.
With the Cameron Peak Fire still fresh in our memories, we follow these new guidelines, working to mitigate fire risk through the cultivation of a healthy forest. Here, we’re fortunate that Crystal Lakes provides a Slash Depot for residents to bring their dead and dying trees. When snow conditions are adequate, the volunteer fire department will supervise the burning of this fuel. This year alone, Craig and I took down approximately 40 dead and diseased trees, and brought over 20 cubic yards to the Slash Depot.
We’re grateful for the proximity of the Roosevelt National Forest, with miles of beautiful hiking trails a short walk from our front door. But, if you look behind the cabin in the photo below, you’ll see the remnants of the pine beetle infestation on the slope behind us. Much of that terrain is difficult and costly to mitigate. National foresters are working to procure the funding and technology to make that mitigation possible.
On our property, the beetle kill had mostly been removed by the previous owners, but we still had trees in distress. The primary culprits were rust, a fungal infection, and mistletoe, an insidious parasite that disguises itself as needles. We removed trees with severe infections, then pruned and thinned areas where the infection might be controlled with some diligence. We left the aspen grove with more light and room to flourish. Next year, we’ll check the remaining conifers, prune infected branches and hope for the best.
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