Keeping your forest healthy by giving your best trees the room they need to thrive.
Photo caption: A multi-age doghair stand which has had no management for decades. Photo by Judy von Ahlefeldt
In a "doghair" * stand, like the one in the picture above, many of the small diameter trees can act as ladder fuels in a forest fire which would jeopardize the entire stand. In this condition, many of these trees will likely die from
competition, breakage, rot, blowdown, or insect infestation. Instead of leaving the stand as is, a better option would be to remove most of these small diameter ladder fuels in the understory. When this kind of treatment is done to the doghair growth, and the overstory trees are reasonably spaced, they can form an open, park-like stand that is far more firesafe, has healthier trees, and more diverse ground vegetation.
*"Doghair" is a forestry term derived from saying "it's as thick as the hair on a dog's back".
FORESTS or THICKETS?
Seems like more and more residents are realizing that their "Forest" is really a "Thicket" in great jeopardy for wildfire. Areas are so dense (see above photo) that fire hazards are obvious. Besides looking like wrecked and abandoned properties, they show forestry action is obviously needed.
Why is this important? For one thing, bark beetle populations tend to increase after trees are damaged from storms. Ips beetles have been seen already invading limbs broken in an April snow, as well as small trees cut earlier in the spring.
Trees that bowed or broke during snowstorms were weak- too tall for their diameter and likely dry and water-stressed. Most of these are in
the thickets of dog-hair stands all too common in pine and conifer areas of Colorado.
These unhealthy trees are also fuel for fires. They compete with each other and with the big trees nearby. They deplete shallow surface
groundwater, causing springs to be weaker, and starving each other for available moisture. They cover the ground with pine needles and crowd out grasses and wildflowers.
The Greenleaf slash disposal site on Rosita Road near Westcliffe gives landowners a wonderful opportunity to correct forest health problems before they set the stage for a disaster. You can do it yourself or have us help!
Plan now to remove excess trees so your trees will be a forest, not a tangled thicket of unhealthy fire-hazard trees. Removal and thinning are much more important than pruning efforts -- it's a matter of significant reduction of biomass initially and as it grows back.
*** Even after decades of work in Colorado, the ladder fuel problem is still extremely severe and likely growing worse statewide. Sustainable forestry practices that balance forest maintenance and removal of excessive growth are needed on a periodic basis to protect our Forests from becoming Thickets. The "Future of the Forest" lies in the management choices of its landowners. ***