Colorado

Forest Action Plan

Photo: Bill Cotton, Colorado State University

Opportunities for Positive Action

The Colorado Forest Action Plan is the first geospatial assessment completed by the Colorado State Forest Service and provides a spatial overview of Colorado’s forests, displaying areas in the state where resources are best focused to achieve desired future conditions. The Forest Action Plan will frame discussions regarding our forested areas and will help determine appropriate distribution of limited resources to areas where they will be most effective. During our discussions across the state, we also will examine the importance of our forest resources and how to effectively conserve them so they continue to serve society’s needs without compromising future productivity.

Conserve

Provide sustainable outputs of forest products while securing the health and integrity of other values across the landscape

Perhaps the greatest threat to all of the state’s forest-dependent wildlife is habitat loss due to fragmentation and development. Forest fragmentation occurs when large, intact forest patches are divided into increasingly smaller tracts. Fragmentation of forest landscapes and their conversion to non-forest uses also means loss of working forests and declining forest products manufacturing capacity. Careful management of forest habitats, including avoidance of disturbance when warranted, can improve overall conditions for target wildlife species. CSFS worked with The Nature Conservancy, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and the Department of Wildlife to develop priority habitat data layers for species of concern and economically important species.

Protect

Protect the life-support and life-enhancing services of natural ecosystems

Colorado is experiencing unprecedented levels of forest insect and disease activity; the current mountain pine beetle epidemic has impacted 3.2 million acres and our urban forests are at risk from numerous issues, including invasive pests such as the emerald ash borer as well as pathogens, including the thousand cankers disease of black walnut. Research is underway in Colorado to improve understanding regarding the dynamics of the pine beetle epidemic to help determine whether it is likely to expand to ponderosa pine forests on the Front Range, and what it may suggest for future forest management. There is a need for more consistent stand-level data for forest conditions on state and private land so that a more meaningful analysis of forest health across ownerships can be conducted.

Enhance

Enhance the value and benefit of forests to meet the current and future needs of society

The headwaters of four major U.S. rivers – the Arkansas, Colorado, Platte and Rio Grande – are located in Colorado’s forests. These rivers provide essential water supplies to 18 states, and water from Colorado’s forests supports a variety of uses including public drinking water, agriculture, industrial uses, recreation and habitat for aquatic life. Forests exert a strong influence on the quantity and quality of water within watersheds by protecting soil and preventing erosion, reducing flooding, filtering contaminants and maintaining essential plant communities. Land managers and water providers alike are concerned about the threat of high-severity wildfire in forested watersheds. Forest management can reduce the risk of damaging wildfire in high-priority watersheds by reducing competition, and enhancing appropriate age and species diversity, as well as overall forest resilience.