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Colorado Jobs Restored, Conservation Education Improved, Forests Protected
The Uncompahgre Plateau Collaborative Restoration Project covers 555,300 acres of mixed conifer, ponderosa pine, pinyon-juniper, aspen, spruce-fir, and riparian areas in western Colorado. Fuels reduction is a priority for the safety of nearby communities, and the implementation of restoration treatments improves wildlife habitat for native species like the Colorado cutthroat trout while supporting crucial employment opportunities at the last remaining large sawmill in the state.
Summary of Action and Outcome
Forest restoration helps native plants and animals as fire risk is reduced through tree thinning and hazardous fuel removal. The community also saw reduced safety risk from fire, as well as an increase in mill operations and very successful education and youth training programs that will help local students gain experience in forest services.
Congress authorized appropriation of up to $40M annually for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project implementation and monitoring to cover up to 50 percent of these costs, with no more than $4M going to any one project. The Forest Service funding shown here is the lifelong request for CFLRP funding. Forest Service and partner match funds, as well as goods for services through stewardship contracts, are leveraged to cover the remaining costs of the projects. Total annual expenditures are given in project annual reports.
All CFLRP projects were selected by a Federal Advisory Committee. Details on project proposals can be found here.
For up-to-date project information, see the annual reports on the “Results” page of the USFS CFLRP website.
Collaborative efforts spanning the past decade and a half have led to the development of a set of six goals for improving the future landscapes of the Uncompahgre Plateau. These goals help Forest personnel and partners formulate monitoring needs and questions to help guide managers through an adaptive management cycle.
- Enhance the resiliency, diversity, and productivity of the native ecosystem on the Uncompahgre Plateau using best available science and collaboration.
- Reintegrate and manage wildfire as a natural landscape-scale ecosystem component that will reduce the risk of unnaturally severe or large crown fires.
- Restore ecosystem structure, composition, and function to encourage viable populations of all native species in natural patterns of abundance and distribution.
- Preserve old or large trees while maintaining structural diversity and resilience; the largest and oldest trees (or in some cases the trees with old-growth morphology regardless of size) should be protected when feasible from cutting and crown fires, focusing treatments on excess numbers of small young trees where this condition is inconsistent with Historical Range of Variability (HRV) conditions.
- Reestablish meadows and open parks and re-establish grasses, forbs, and robust understory communities.
- Manage herbivory. Grass, forbs, and shrub understories are essential to plant and animal diversity and soil stability. Robust understories are necessary to restore natural fire regimes and to limit excessive tree seedling establishment. Where possible, defer livestock grazing after treatment until the herbaceous layer has established its potential structure, composition, and function.
Project partners will work with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife to manage big game populations to levels that will contribute to successful restoration treatments.
On February 25, 2014, stakeholders were invited to hear results of monitoring completed in 2013 and to identify and prioritize monitoring priorities to be completed in 2014. Two monitoring field trips were held in 2014, with 62 stakeholders participating.
Many important details will need to be developed and addressed throughout the year, so we will use a Monitoring Guidance Committee (MGC) for operational details. The MGC will include key agency personnel, the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, and other key people needed for particular projects. The work of the MGC is transparent, with prompt communication to all stakeholders about issues, decisions, etc.—everyone’s input is welcome at all times, though no one is asked to volunteer for all the time-demanding tasks.
Continued discussions and involvement of multiple collaborators and cooperators in planning efforts, studies, and monitoring activities. Held our annual mid-winter meeting that involved over 50 stakeholders and conducted two summer camp-outs. Sixty-four individuals participated in the camp-outs.
Implementation of a project website was completed by the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute. The website is acting as a repository for all citizens monitoring occurring on the Plateau. Through the Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative, an external website has also been maintained. The purpose of this site is keep stakeholders informed about the project throughout the year.
Treatments lagging behind targeted amount are those occurring in ponderosa pine, mixed conifer, gambel oak, aspen, and re-establishment of native plants through seeding. The project has also lagged behind in the use of prescribed fire due to difficulty to hit burning windows. The project continues to utilize mechanical treatments in lieu of prescribed fire to maximize our ability to complete treatments. Mechanical treatments have also lagged behind, but are expected to increase in coming years through the use of stewardship contracts and agreements. The Forest will emphasize vegetation or types of treatment that are lagging behind proposed levels.