Open Meeting Aspen Regeneration/Fire Mitigation Project


Aspen Regeneration/Fire Mitigation Project

It has come to the attention of the ZHA Board that many of the Aspen in our community are reaching the end of their life cycle. This (along with some other factors) is causing our Aspen to die at an alarming rate. Dead Aspen create fuel for fires. Also, in these same areas, little or no Aspen regeneration is going on.

Education and a solution to this issue is now being addressed by the Board and Fire Committee.

Adam Moore from the Colorado State Forest Service, and other Board members, have been providing vast amounts of information for the Board to read.

One important piece of information the Aspen studies have shown, if we want to help with Aspen regeneration, we need to remove the dead and live Aspen in the areas that are overcrowded. Sun is essential for the sprouting and regrowth of Aspen. Right now very little or no sun is penetrating several of our Aspen groves.

Adam Moore has been helping the Board find a financially feasible solution. He suggested that we see if any loggers would be interested in helping us with this project. Adam also pointed out another possibility. If the BLM decides to log the beetle-infested trees on the BLM side of Zapata, maybe the equipment used for that project could be used to remove selected Aspen.

Adam said there is no real hurry to start the Aspen Regeneration project but with each passing year, more Aspen die and that means less value and interest for the loggers willing to tackle this project and of course there is more fuel for fire.

An open meeting was held on March 20th concerning the Aspen regeneration/fire mitigation project. The purpose was to help answer questions and for a walk through the ZHA Aspen greenbelts. The guest speaker was Adam Moore. Adam’s assistant, Sam Scavo, also attended. We were also fortunate enough to have Larry Fuller and Don Bressan from Haggai Forestry Company attend.

Additional ZHA members attending were Jack Zeman, Troy Campbell, Erin Smith, John White, Wayne Ross, John Barnes and Tyra Barnes.

The event started with a sit down question and answer period followed by an Aspen walk period and then ended with another sit down question and answer period.

There was a lot of information shared at this meeting. I will try to hit some of the main points we talked about:

Basic Aspen information:

Aspen have a short life cycle. Average is 70 to 90 years. Many of the Aspen in our area have reached or will soon reach the end of their life cycle. Aspen are a disturbance-related plant. Aspen normally move into an area after such events as fires, avalanches or logging harvests. Many evergreens prefer to get their start in shaded areas, thus you will often see evergreens getting a start in Aspen groves. After an Aspen grove reaches maturity and starts dying, the evergreens can take over. In order for the Aspen to regenerate, there has to be a disturbance event that allows sun to penetrate to the ground. The sun allows the Aspen to sprout and grow from the Aspen roots. A shaded evergreen area or an over-crowded Aspen canopy will not allow for Aspen regeneration. Aspen management has been practiced for several years now with good results. In large part, that is due to the rapid growth of Aspen.

Information provided by the loggers that attended the meeting:

Loggers are looking for straight Aspen that are at least 10” to 12” wide for optimum harvest. If there is an agreement with the Zapata Board, the loggers would be willing to take out the dead Aspen, while harvesting some mature live Aspen. They would deposit the dead Aspen in a predetermined staging area. The dead Aspen could be left for the community to cut up as firewood or the logging company could take the logs and sell them for firewood. If the loggers take the dead Aspen out of Zapata that would help with the project costs for the ZHA. The loggers are willing to work with us and do selective cutting, leaving predetermined groups of Aspen as well as Aspen along the borders of roads. They are willing to be selective so that it would help with aesthetics, however they would still need to remove enough mature live Aspen to make it worth their time. The loggers have repeatedly seen very rapid regrowth of Aspen in areas that have been burned or logged. Adam also stated that he has seen or knows of several Forest Management/Aspen regeneration sites that were selectively logged. He said that after an area is opened up to the sun, the sprouting and growth from the Aspen root system is very rapid and you can quite often see Aspen regrowth waist high or higher within 2 years.

Observations on the walk through the Zapata Aspen

There were a few Aspen sprouts in the open areas around the edges of some of the Aspen groves. Within the areas that were thick with mature Aspen, very little or no Aspen sprouts were spotted. A vast majority of the Zapata Aspen are in the mature (end of life) stage. Little or no sun is able to penetrate many of the Aspen groves. Some of the younger Aspen, along the outside edges of the mature Aspen groves, were several feet tall but struggling to stay alive due to lack of sun and competition for nutrients and water. There were some less dense Aspen areas that had quite a bit of Juniper growing throughout. Adam mentioned that if we wanted Aspen regeneration, after clearing the mature Aspen, we would probably also need to remove many of the Juniper trees. He said that as the young Aspen are trying to establish themselves the Juniper can take over. He also added that Juniper take more water than most trees.

General Questions and answers:

Question: Would there be adequate water for Aspen regeneration? (Adam felt there would be, especially due to the fact that the mature Aspen would no longer be taking the water.) Question: If several Aspen were cut down, would that increase the chance for flooding? (Adam responded saying he did not think there would be any problem in Zapata for several reasons. The Aspen root system would still be in place and would act like a sponge. The soil here is coarse and water penetrates very quickly and the Aspen groves we are considering are not on a steep slope. Adam and the loggers mentioned that there would also be many Aspen that are left in place. Examples would be if the slope was to steep or rocky, or along the boarders of roads and in Aspen areas that are not overcrowded.) Question: In roadside logging loading areas, could special attention be given to the aesthetics of those areas? (Example, more attention to cleaning up slash debris.) Question: Would we need to protect new Aspen sprouts from deer or other animals? (Adam did not think that would be a problem but a fence could be put around areas that indicated the need.)

It was mentioned that whatever the Board decides, they would need to be sure there is transparency and education for the ZHA.

UPDATE: Board decides to move ahead on Aspen Regeneration. For additional information, read the attached "Updated Information -- Aspen Regeneration/Fire Mitigation Letter."

If you have any questions please contact, Tyra Barnes Secretary of the ZHA Board and Fire Committee Member