News Flash

Summit County Government

Posted on: July 19, 2019

Summit County to Conduct Wildfire Mitigation on Wildernest - Mesa Cortina Open Space

A dead tree is marked for removal.

A fuels reduction project will begin July 22, improving community safety and forest health

Contact: Michael Wurzel, 970-668-4065

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County Open Space & Trails will begin a wildfire fuels reduction project on the Wildernest – Mesa Cortina Open Space on Monday, July 22, in partnership with the Colorado State Forest Service and Willowcreek Timber Services. Through late October, timber crews will be felling, stacking and removing trees from three separate sections of the open space. Crews will begin in Stand 1, located at the eastern end of the parcel.

Summit County Open Space's mission includes maintaining healthy, diverse forests while reducing wildfire hazard. This project is funded through the Summit County Strong Future Fund, which supports fuel breaks and fuels reduction to make communities safer from and more resilient to wildfires.

“Strong Future funding has significantly enhanced the County’s ability to undertake complex fuels reduction projects like this, which require hand felling and working around steep slopes, sensitive riparian areas and dense residential neighborhoods,” Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said.

For the Wildernest – Mesa Cortina project, crews will remove unhealthy trees and dead and dying trees to reduce tree densities and improve growing conditions. Crews will also utilize a thin-from-below strategy – removing smaller, ladder fuels to increase canopy height and reduce the likelihood of transition from a surface fire to a crown fire. And they'll increase crown spacing to limit the potential for a crown fire to spread. These treatments will work in concert to reduce surface fuel loading and improve forest resiliency and health. 

By individually marking specific trees for removal, foresters will be able to increase tree spacing while selectively retaining the healthiest trees. Treatments may include some mechanical felling, but most of the work will be done by hand because of the sensitive nature of the area. As crews work in each of the three sections of the project, it will be signed for closure for safety purposes.

The most challenging aspects of the project will be effective slash treatment and removal of logs. Because of limited access to the stands, crews will conduct log removal via winching. Where log removal is not possible, slash treatments will include pile burns.

Pile-and-burn is the most effective way to reduce post-treatment fuel loading. Piling will be done by hand in the most sensitive areas, assuring the least negative effects to remaining vegetation. Piles will then be burned in the winter with seasonal snowpack to ensure safe and effective consumption. Crews will mitigate smoke impacts to the surrounding community by burning when conditions are ideal for smoke dispersal and fast pile consumption.

Passed by Summit County voters in November 2018, the Strong Future Fund provides about $1 million per year for wildfire mitigation programs and strategies, including fuel breaks around neighborhoods, hazardous fuels reduction, wildfire prevention patrols, public education on fire restrictions, cistern installation, road upgrades for firefighting equipment access and other strategies.

For additional information on this project, contact Michael Wurzel at the Summit County Open Space & Trails Department: 970-668-4065.


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