Southern California and Central Colorado : Tree Planting Post-Fire Perspectives

Crews work on planting ponderosa pine seedlings Thursday in the burned area of Colorado's Pike National Forest as part of the Hayman reforestation project. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Here’s an article from the Denver Post, Replanting forests in Colorado wildfire areas has benefit for water supply from April 13.

It’s interesting to compare these perspectives on tree planting. I wonder if tree planting post fire has “critics” in Colorado, or the reporter didn’t interview them..???

“There is a direct connection between healthy forests and sustainable supplies for clean water,” Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “Planting trees will help re-establish the ponderosa pine forests that would otherwise take more than a hundred years to grow naturally.”

“Nature runs the game”

Sediment eroding into streams and the river after rainstorms “increases our cost of treating water” and has forced operational suspensions, Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker said. “We want to get ahead of this.”

Forest experts say it’s too early to assess the extent to which tree-planting may spur regeneration of forests. Current targets call for replanting across 1,085 Hayman fire acres this year, with the goal of eventually replanting one-third of the burned acres, and also starting on the Buffalo Creek fire area.

Residents who still live in the former forests along the upper South Platte applauded the tree-planting but say federal foresters should have begun this work with greater intensity and focus 10 years ago in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

Drought this spring has helped, because rainstorms trigger erosion, Westcreek resident Steve Schnoes said, out with his wife, Tanya, cutting back trees near their home as a precaution in case of a new fire.

“Nature runs the game here,” but planting is a necessary response, Schnoes said. “We’re going to look like the moon if we don’t.”

4 thoughts on “Southern California and Central Colorado : Tree Planting Post-Fire Perspectives”

  1. Yes, planting pine 10 years after a fire, possibly on marginally productive soils and slopes, is a crap shoot. Can’t help but wonder why the downstream water users haven’t pitched in with some bucks or volunteers way before this…it is their water.
    Don’t know the Rockies down there, but up north there are frequent south and southwest aspects on thin mountain soils at high altitudes that take decades to reforest. Must have just the right combination of moisture and temps for germination, and some reeasonably good growing seasons afterward to get these roots down and established. Just because there were trees there previously doesn’t mean they will quickly return.

  2. Nice piece. I think we are back to having large wild fire burns to repopulate with trees here in 2020. In southern California both forest management and water management have been largely ignored. This is to the detriment of both water supply and forest fires.

  3. Great piece — thanks for posting this. I was hoping that California would do better in forest management after the catastrophic fires of a few years ago. But no such luck. If they didn’t build that “high-speed rail from L.A. to S.F” $ — which is neither high speed nor does it go from L.A. to S.F. — they could have used the funds to solve the water shortage with offshore desalinization plants and give the leftovers to forest management.


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