I think it would be interesting for a student to look into why it is so controversial some places, and not so much others. I’m sure part of it is size-related, and part living vs. dead and hazard tree criteria. Perhaps commercialness and species? Or just cultural history of the Forest (in this case, no Timber Wars background that I know of) and its relationship with neighbors? Are hazard tree projects a big concern where you live, or not, or somewhere in-between?
Here’s a story from the Summit Daily News about some current hazard tree/fuel reduction activities near Dillon, Colorado.
Apparently the White River has been working from a forest-wide 2009 hazard tree decision (EA, 92 pages) that also involves removing dead and downed trees for fuel reduction purposes. In 2022, they did a Supplemental Information Report, adjusted some things and kept going. Interesting that no specific areas were identified in advance (condition-based management?), and it doesn’t seem like it has been controversial.
Scheduling of individual hazardous tree removal projects will occur based upon a variety of indicators. The first indicator that will be used to identify areas that will be scheduled for treatment is the presence of hazardous trees. Secondly, those areas will then be prioritized according to the intensity or frequency of hazardous tree occurrence. The third indicator will be identifying the frequency of use; areas identified as high-use will qualify as a priority for treatment over areas that are considered low-use. Access to and from private landholdings as well as the protection of historic features and administrative sites will also be considered when project sites are scheduled for treatment.
Hazardous Tree Definition
Hazardous trees are defined in reference to the Forestwide Hazardous Tree Removal and Fuels Reduction Project as:
Any tree that may fail due to a structural defect and, as a result, may cause property damage or personal injury. Tree failure is difficult to predict with certainty due to the complex interaction between a tree and its environment. Every tree would eventually fail; therefore, knowledge of tree species, site characteristics, and local weather conditions and patterns are essential when evaluating tree hazards. A defective tree is hazardous only when its failure could result in damage to something of value. The following tree specific criteria would be used to identify defective trees.
Any one or more of these criteria would qualify a tree as defective:
1. Dead trees of any species
2. Trees with significant defects
a. Canker rots
b. Root rots
c. Trunk injuries (mechanical damage, stem decay, etc.)
d. Crown defects (broken or damaged branches, forked tops, dead tops, etc.)
e. Exposed damaged roots in cut banks of roads/trails
3. Dying trees
a. About 1/3 + dead limbs and branches
b. Foliage transparency 40% + (thin crown, off-color or dwarfed foliage)
c. Borer attacks obvious and abundant – the presence of insect activity, such as bark beetles or mountain pine beetles, may indicate that a tree has been weakened by other agents.