Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. At the beginning of last Thursday’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Board meeting at the Nederland Community Center, board member Randy Lee said, “There will be concern when trees start falling outside of town.” Lee referred to the proposed Boulder Ranger District Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project which will begin on September 28th.
Members of the Forest Service, Boulder County Open Space, and Saws and Slaws spoke to the public, explaining where and how the mitigation would happen
Peter Brown of the USFS explained that a wildfire in the Ned area is not a case of if, but when, it will occur. There are two kinds of fire, a crown fire and a surface fire. The surface fire is defendable, the crown fire is not, so it the Forest Service’s intent to create defensible space around the town, to keep flames on the ground.
Brown said that Ponderosa pine can adapt to a surface fire, that its two inches of bark will allow for a portion to be burnt, but not all. Fire scars are evident in many of the Ponderosa trees in the area.
“We have to get dense stands to where the fire is more characteristic of a surface fire and that means mechanical treatment. We have to have more openings in the canopy to make a less active crown fire.”
USFS silviculturist Kevin Zimmerman said there will be several contracts active near Nederland addressing the fuels reduction and restoration.
After the recent work on the East Magnolia mitigation area and its resulting outcry from residents, the Forest Service has hired a new contractor for the work around Nederland. The former Magnolia Road contractor left the job after threats and finally vandalism took place on his equipment. A bullet hole was found in a company pickup truck and wires were yanked out of the big logging equipment on the property.
Mark Morgan, a member of the board of Directors for Colorado Timber Industry Association District 4, the Tree Farm liaison, and a member of the association’s insurance committee, is the new contractor who will work on the areas in and around Nederland.
Scott Golden of the USFS said that in 2010 various agencies got together to take a look at funding of the mitigation project and in August of last year they were awarded part of the funding for the project. Golden said he stepped in and enabled Nederland to obtain the resources. He said the project will have no adverse effects, there are no species issues, and there will be no taking of bird nests or eggs. A biologist will check out the work before and during the project. The total mitigated acreage is 45 acres.
These areas include Caribou Ridge, about nine acres that is a continuous canopy unit with nothing to stop a crown fire. Brown says he doesn’t want to make it dramatic and they are trying to keep the shock of change minimal, but they will be mitigating to create defensible space. About four out of every 10 trees will go and openings the size of the NCC meeting room will be made.
The Joe Smith Park on Sundown Trail will receive mechanical treatment on half an acre. About 25 percent of the trees will be taken, chipped, or moved to the Nederland Sort Yard.
The third area is Mud Lake, probably the most diverse property in Nederland. It consists of 21 acres of surface fuel including aspens to limber pines and the Bog orchid. It is a wildlife corridor center and Golden says they probably won’t do much in the area.
The Hilltop Water Tank sits on 0.57 acres of land and will be mechanically treated and the fuels chipped.
Area number Five is at the Nederland Public Works “Dream” Yard, which is now used for pipe storage and construction materials. Golden says there is beetle and mistletoe infestation and the area has been disturbed by non-native aggressive weeds and road salt leaching into the soil. The plan is to remove competing conifers and treat the mistletoe.
The Tom Riley Park on Sundance Circle, 1.2 acres, has a stand of healthy aspen and is a perfect example of diversity. The mitigation plan is to rid the spot of noxious weeds.
The seventh area for treatment is the Big Springs area, which will be done first. It has social trails running through it and is much used for hiking and biking. It consists mostly of lodgepole pine and will be mitigated by hand.
Kevin Zimmerman says that Ponderosa and fir trees have been planted in the West Magnolia treatment area that had residents upset about the barren landscape that was left. “We are trying to punch holes and get a new generation started. We have been emphasizing aspens and meadow and doing the appropriate treatment.”
Zimmerman went on to say that one of the first projects, Taylor Mountain Restoration, took place in 2010 and neighboring land owners were not happy. The treatment removed 40 percent of the trees. Since then much change has taken place. One of the landowners visited the site last month and admitted he liked the change – the wildflowers and the meadows. “I had no idea it would look so good,” he told the forester.
“A war zone takes a few years to recover,” said Zimmerman.