The Colorado State Forest Service and Northwest Colorado District of the Bureau of Land Management have entered into an agreement to address beetle-killed timber on BLM-managed public lands in Grand County, which are adjacent to state and/or private lands where similar CSFS-administered management will occur. The five-year, cross-boundary projects are possible through exercising the Good Neighbor Authority, a national program that allows state agencies to conduct forest treatments on federal lands – through effective sharing of resources – to achieve landscape-scale impacts.
Areas of focus in the county are those that have been impacted by Colorado’s two-decade mountain pine beetle epidemic. The primary objective is harvesting timber to remove dead trees for beneficial use, which leads to creating forest stands that are healthier and more defensible from catastrophic wildfire events, and improved forest health for watershed protection across multi-jurisdictional boundaries.
“We still have a chance to harvest this wood before it’s all on the ground,” said Matt Schiltz, a forester with the CSFS Granby District. “By exercising the Good Neighbor Authority, we are able to address priority areas on the landscape quickly, and regardless of land ownership designations.”
The CSFS and BLM are working together to implement forest treatments and project prioritization strategies. Under the Good Neighbor agreement, the CSFS may handle various aspects of project design and layout and oversee contracts, depending on coordination with BLM foresters, while the BLM must complete environmental analyses as required by the National Environmental Policy Act for each project.
Most of the Grand County treatments will be accomplished through timber sales, but other non-sale treatments may be implemented including the creation of fuelbreaks and hazard tree removals. Two sites totaling approximately 690 acres of adjoining BLM, state and private lands are currently in the planning phase, with several other sites in the county also being proposed. Harvesting operations could begin late this year – most likely in winter, when frozen soil and a layer of snow help reduce impacts to the landscape.
“These beetle-killed stands are falling at an alarmingly rapid rate right now, and this is an effective way to deal with them,” Schiltz said. He adds that everyone should consider avoiding bark beetle-impacted lodgepole pine forests on windy days, and exercise caution in those forests even on calm days due to the risk of falling trees.
Although the current Good Neighbor efforts are being focused on Grand County, under the CSFS-BLM agreement, treatments could also occur in the future in Jackson, Eagle and Routt counties.
The CSFS Granby District has utilized the Good Neighbor Authority in the past to address cross-boundary projects with the U.S. Forest Service, but this project represents the first CSFS-BLM project in the district.
The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) provides technical forestry assistance, wildfire mitigation expertise and outreach and education to help landowners and communities achieve their forest management goals. The CSFS is a service and outreach agency of the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University and provides staffing for the Division of Forestry within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. For more information, visit www.csfs.colostate.