Click the link to read the article on The Colorado Springs Gazette website (Mary Shinn):
Contracted crews will remove trees across 300 acres to reduce the high risk of catastrophic wildfire near North Catamount Reservoir south of U.S. 24, said Luke Cherney, a forester with the State Forest Service. The area on U.S. Forest Service land was prioritized for fire mitigation because of the dense trees, damage from pests and proximity to drinking water infrastructure. The goal is to ensure when the forest burns, it will not be as extreme and hot as some of the state’s most destructive fires, such as the Waldo Canyon fire, that run through the crowns of trees, blackening the landscape and killing nearly all the vegetation. This type of fire can hurt the watershed and water infrastructure because without living plants the ash and sediment will wash into reservoirs and intake pipes, creating major problems for water managers. Areas hit by intense fire also can see major debris flows without any vegetation to hold back soils. Thinning trees will help create conditions where fires will burn at a lower intensity through the underbrush, leaving many trees alive…
The parcel, adjacent to areas that Colorado Springs Utilities already has mitigated, never has been mitigated for fire risk, said Jeremy Taylor, Utilities’ forestry program manager, and the work will protect pipelines, electrical lines and the overall watershed. Runoff from a healthy watershed is also far cleaner and easier to treat.
“We are restoring the landscape to a more historic and healthy condition that previously would have been achieved by wildfire,” he said in an email.
The project will remove about half the trees in an area where western spruce budworm and Douglas-fir beetle have damaged the forest, Cherney said. The work will increase the space between trees and allow each tree more access to water and nutrients to improve their health, putting them in a better position to fend off pests, he said.
The crews may use masticators to thin trees, Cherney said. The masticators, similar to front-end loaders, are equipped with large drums loaded with metal teeth to remove and mulch trees. In steep areas, crews may also need to use chain saws.