The Mary Ross Quaintance Trust has begun a forest restoration project on 185 acres of forested land immediately west of downtown Red Feather Lakes. Using science-based forest restoration research and prescriptions, this project aims to reduce severe wildfire risk, mortality from insects and disease, as well as improve wildlife habitat and water quality. For the past 100-200 years, societal practices have modified the structure and composition of our forests through fire suppression, overgrazing, and lack of management. These practices have led to undesirable and uncharacteristic fuel conditions, poor wildlife habitat, and unhealthy trees. In turn, these undesirable conditions can lead to degradation of soil health and water quality. This project was designed to restore forests back to a more naturally-functioning state, providing better resiliency of the forest to insects, disease, fire, and extreme weather events.
The landowners at Mary Ross Quaintance Trust have collaborated with the Fort Collins Conservation District (FCCD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement forest restoration practices during late 2019 through 2020. The project goals are to:
- Decrease severe wildfire risk to the Red Feather Lakes Community
- Return tree density and composition closer to a historical state to reduce the risk of catastrophic disease/pest infestation or wildfire. Reduce tree densities by approximately 60%.
- Create openings for quaking aspen, native grasses, forbs, and shrubs to re-establish and improve the site’s biodiversity.
- Mimic historical disturbance regimes through mechanical treatment to boost healthy forest structure and improve wildlife habitat.
In the years following project completion, expect to see a substantial increase in quaking aspen, native grass, wildflower, and shrub regeneration. Shade-intolerant ponderosa pine seedlings will also regenerate in the newly-created openings. Overall, the project area will have improved age, size, and species diversity that will, in turn, provide habitat and forage for wildlife. Although the project may appear to be destructive at first glance, forest ecosystems depend on disturbances such as fire and sustainable forest management to maintain their vital functions. The project’s goals are to improve forest function for many years to come. The Mary Ross Quaintance Trust landowner goals are to take a long-term/strategic approach to management done on the property and feel this project will help to strengthen the forest and community safety in Red Feather Lakes.
At all times, but especially during logging operations, landowners and managers ask the public to adhere to posted signs, and do not trespass. It’s recommended to keep pets leashed, and to avoid active cutting areas as they can be extremely dangerous. More information can be found in the project’s informational pamphlets located at the Red Feather Lakes library and post office or on the Fort Collins Conservation District’s website: www.fortcollinscd.org/healthy-forest-initiative.html