Thursday, September 6, 2012

Massive Forest Die Off in and around Alberta Park, Wolf Creek Colorado

{updated 9/7/12}

Why would anyone still consider building a multi-million dollar "Luxury Village" in the dying forest at and around Alberta Park?  

The prognosis is that an extreme fire event will occur up there in the foreseeable future. { I've been sent a message from a Rio Grande National Forest official who points out that the Spruce forest in Alberta Park itself, though dying in front of our eyes is in a location where it could exist, dead and standing, for quite some time before succumbing to forest fire.  Interesting, though it is, I don't see how this materially alters the sales viability of a luxury village in a dead, but standing forest.   
See the note near the bottom of this post}

Given this situation wouldn't it be a better idea for USDA-RGNF officials to think past that imminent event and consider how important a hydrologically unmolested Alberta Park Fens-land and wetland matrix will be for the future recovery process from the damages this inevitable forest fire will inflict on this Rio Grande River Basin Watershed?

Why don’t USDA-Forest Service officials begin to proactively pursue a strategy of encouraging Mr. Red McCombs to return his Alberta Park parcel to the Rio Grande National Forest, or perhaps to a land conservancy group?

To support the logic behind this suggestion link to this report:

According to the Colorado State Forester, the aftermath of the mountain pine beetle epidemic will require as much attention as the outbreak itself – including attention from private landowners.

The forest health report provides a comprehensive overview of forest insect and disease concerns in the state.

On Feb. 22, Jeff Jahnke, state forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service, spoke at the annual Joint Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Hearing at the State Capitol. 
Risk of Millions of Dead Trees Falling 
Jahnke said that although active mountain pine beetle infestations impacted fewer acres in Colorado last year than in any year since 2006, private landowners and public land managers now must deal with the real risk of millions of dead trees falling, and capitalize on the chance to prepare regenerating forests to be healthier than their predecessors.
The risk of falling trees remains a real concern to life and property on private land,” Jahnke said. “Likewise, addressing general forest health in the wake of a bark beetle epidemic is a responsibility shared by public land managers and private landowners.” 
Report Provides Comprehensive Overview  
The 2011 Report on the Health of Colorado's Forests, released by the Colorado State Forest Service at the Joint Ag Committee hearing, provides a comprehensive overview of forest insect and disease concerns in the state. 
The 11th annual report indicates that all-species tree mortality from mountain pine beetles has declined for the third consecutive year, but that the epidemic continues to expand in ponderosa and lodgepole pine forests along the northern Front Range. 
“This report, along with the Colorado Forest Action Plan that was developed in 2009-2010, will help guide forest management decisions today, and provide an opportunity to stimulate discussion about what we want our future forests to look like,” Jahnke said. 
The 2011 report also includes a special section on the riparian forests of the Eastern Plains, and describes how spruce beetles continue to impact mature Engelmann spruce forests in high-elevation areas of Colorado – impacting 262,000 acres last year. 
The largest outbreak, centered in the San Juan Mountains and upper Rio Grande Basin, previously was limited to remote public lands. Yet the beetles now pose a threat to spruce forests on private land.
“This infestation has now reached areas visible from the highway,” said Joe Duda, Forest Management Division supervisor for the CSFS. 

2011 Report on the Health of Colorado's Forests (3.1 MB PDF)
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I was sent the following from a Rio Grande National Forest official:
A couple points you may find interesting about the dead spruce. Natural fire danger is not expected to increase due to the dead trees because the spruce-fir forest is in a wet zone.  It takes extremely dry periods to make the spruce-fir zone susceptible to large fires.  
When those conditions exists, and there is an ignition, severe wildfires will often follow with or without the dead spruce, because that zone usually has a lot of fuel buildup (because there are so many years between large fires 300-500 yrs).  
The stability of the dead trees is a whole other issue.  In general (key word “general”), dead spruce tend to stand many years longer than dead lodgepole pine (the situation up north in the pine beetle-killed forests).  
That said, there are a lot of variables that can influence how quickly the dead trees will fall, such as topography, wind, soil types, moisture, and the presence of rot already in the trees.

This is interesting and adds more valuable details, however it doesn't seem to me to alter the impression that a luxury Village At Wolf Creek in a dead, but standing, Spruce Tree forest is a pipedream who's time and business viability has clearly faded into oblivion.

Alberta Park needs to be preserved unmolested by bulldozers more than ever.
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Dear Friends of Alberta Park and Wolf Creek, 
we have this one moment (September) to tell the Rio Grande Forest Service and the US Department of Agriculture's powers-that-be what a destructive boondoggle this luxury Village at 10,500± elevation would be.

But, they'll never listen to you, if you don't contact them!
Here's where to do that, but you need to do it now, September:

Commenting on This Project
The Forest Service values public input. Comments received, including respondents’ names and addresses, will become part of the public record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide the agency with the ability to provide you with project updates. The Forest Service wishes to provide you with as many opportunities as possible to learn about our activities.

Official Deadline for comments: 9/30/2012. (or is that Friday the 28th, or Monday the 1st?)

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