The Future: Colorado's Forests

(If someone can promote this, that would be great! I hope Colorado officials read it. If not, email it to your State Representative/Senator. Thank you all!)

When I ran for House District 56 in 2008, many seemed to agree that Colorado was on the verge of an ecological devastation. The pine beetle, aging forests, and lack of biodiversity, all created a perfect storm that now, unfortunately, seems to have erupted.

I wanted to write this article because, while the most important duty is to save lives, the second most important duty needs to be the reforestation of Colorado forests. Colorado needs to rebuild the strongest forests possible. However, in the wake of these wildfires, the window is going to close terribly fast, which is why public officials must act immediately, should we have greater forests.  
First off, there are a couple misconceptions about forests that everyone should understand -

1. LIFE EXPECTANCY - Trees actually have a life expectancy. Most trees live from 80 to 120 years, and all trees will die eventually, whether they are cut down or left alone.

2. WILDFIRES - Wildfires are not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, nothing replenishes a forest quicker than a wildfire. The burned nutrients of old trees sink deep into the soil, creating a topsoil that is especially fertile for new growth.

3. WEAK FORESTS VS STRONG FORESTS - A weak forest is one where few species of trees are found, with most claiming the same age. Consider this point - any insect or disease that threatens our forests will have a harder time devastating the area if they have to compete against a diversity of tree species and ages. In that regard, a strong forest is one of many different species of trees, along with trees of different ages.

Sadly, despite their tremendous beauty, Colorado has some of the world's weakest forests. Mining was a major industry in Colorado in the late 1800's, and because of it, much of Colorado was deforested. The result? Colorado forests, indeed, bounced back, but they bounced back on terms that only mother nature could dictate.

Pine trees tend to be one of Colorado's most populous trees. In turn, when mining finally decreased in the early 1900's, Colorado's forests bounced back, but mostly with an overgrowth of pine trees, that all matured at the same time. One reason why so many fires are occurring right now is because our forests contain trees of uniform species (pine trees) that are of uniform age (elder). Elder trees, all of the same species, are terribly unlikely to withstand wildfires, harsh diseases, and drastic environmental changes.

Now the good news?

The devastation of these wildfires (and my prayer to anyone who loses their home or life) is that we will be left with a chance to start fresh. Colorado forests, by the end of this summer, will see thousands of hectares of new, fertile soil, recently burned, ready to spring the trees of tomorrow.

So what is the mistake we are making?

By leaving these areas alone, and untouched, the same forests will regenerate. Pine trees, when burned, even elder ones, release a plethora of seeds, making sure that they immediately regrow. And should we let that occur, Coloradans, one-hundred years from now, will face the same forest devastations of today, where wildfires and pine beetles ferociously challenge our forests of uniform biodiversity and age.

The solutions I hope our public officials take on:

1. REFORESTATION - Once the wildfires calm down, Colorado officials need to make sure that an aggressive reforestation campaign is commenced. In areas where wildfires have taken place, seeds for different species of trees need to be distributed immediately - this could be as simple as an airplane fly-over that literally drops seeds on newly, burned areas. Colorado forests will always have large swaths of pines, but a distribution of seeds should include aspens, spruces, evergreens, cottonwoods, boxelders, maples, etc - whatever trees are most ecologically viable, in regard to Colorado - should all be planted, en masse.

2. WILDFIRES - With the exception of wildfires that are burning near residential areas, our focus on the wildfires should not be to 'put them out,' but rather, to protect residential areas against them. In other words, we should let the wildfires burn, in a controlled manner, leaving us with as many hectares of fertile soil, as possible.

3. FUTURE - Ultimately, it would be best if we could plan a campaign to clear-cut small parts of forests all over Colorado, in around 30 years from now, and immediately replant a diversity of trees, so that Colorado's forests will not only have many different species of trees, but also trees of different ages. Such a plan will give us the launchpad for truly building the strongest forests possible.

Of note, Finland's forests were basically destroyed after World War 2, but today, they are some of the world's strongest. This achievement is a result of Finland's work in making sure that their forests claim excellent diversity of tree species and age. However, this is also a result of the fact that more than half of Finland's forests are privately owned, with perhaps, the majority of the country's forests managed by logging industries. In turn, Finland's forests are constantly managed, with some trees cut down, and new ones immediately replanted, always guaranteeing a strong forest, whose sustainability is paid for by private logging.

We can build the forest of tomorrow in Colorado...

...but the time is now, and the window will close terribly fast.

With love and peace - Miguel Ali  

Go to CO State Page
origin Blog: 
origin Author: 
Showing 0 comments