RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Rio Grande County Commissioners listened to a presentation by Colorado State Forest Service Supervisory Forester Adam Moore about the current conditions of the state-managed forest during their meeting on April 27.
Moore was accompanied by Forester Sam Scavo who spoke briefly to the board about some of the projects that were being completed this year to help spread education on fire mitigation in and around homes.
Moore began the presentation by handing out a publication being distributed throughout the community that gave a detailed account of what the forests are experiencing during the current drought conditions.
“The emphasis of this year and this report is the current draft conditions which significantly affect the health of the forest and whether or not the trees can fight off infections and disease,” explained Moore.
Moore continued to explain that as of June of 2021 snowpack in the region, specifically the Upper Rio Grande, was only 23% of normal.
“We are at 23% of normal,” Moore said. “We are looking a little better this year, but the number is going down quick. During the most recent windy day, in one warm day, we lost 7% of our snowpack. A large portion of the snowpack this year, before it was even able to flow into the streams, it was absorbed by the soil. Depending on the soil type and how dry it is, that is 10 to 20% of the snowpack gone before it has a chance to come down in streams.”
Moore said as has previously been reported, that the spruce beetle is the number one “killing agent” around the state and that drought conditions have not helped in the fight against the damage caused in forests from the beetle.
“For 10 years in a row it has been the largest killing agent. We have not seen as big of an increase in activity because basically we peaked in 2015 and 2016,” explained Moore, adding that the reason was because the food source in local forests was no longer sustainable for the beetle. “They have basically already consumed most of the trees.”
With conditions continuing to deteriorate, the need for moisture is apparent. As the warmer summer months quickly approach, fire danger due to these conditions continues to rise and concerns from local and state officials rise with them. Moore said that the Colorado State Forest Service is looking to educate the public on preventative measures to mitigate fire danger around communities.
“We are looking at how the current conditions affect communities. With the dry conditions and not having the snow, the Division of fire Prevention and Control Center has stated that we have a lot of fuels that were not pushed down. We have opportunities for fire that aren’t going to look for us potentially for the year,” Moore said.
Moore spoke briefly on the Community Fire Protection Plan that is in the final stages of completion. Colorado State Forest Service in partnership with South Fork fire Rescue and other stake holders have been working to revise the plan since the beginning of the year and hope to have a final document for public release in coming weeks.
Forester Scavo also spoke to commissioners about fire mitigation around homes which includes cleaning out gutters, trimming trees and branches from trees that are close to the home as well as dead debris from the previous fall and winter. All of which help play a role in protecting homes from fires. Commissioners thanked Moore and Scavo for giving them an update on current conditions and for their continued work in helping to engage and educate the public on the dangers of fire for the coming 2022 summer season.
All information provided to commissioners during this meeting can be found online at www.csfs.colostate.edu.