More than 50 people attended the North Fork Weed Cooperative’s Land Stewardship workshop on July 14 at the Red Feather Lakes POA Hall. Speakers presented interesting insights on native vegetation, the mountain pine beetle epidemic, how beetle-killed trees may affect wildfire behavior and wildlife activity in the watershed of the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River. The North Fork Weed Coop was delighted to be joined by the Soaring Eagle Ecology Center hosting a talk on diamonds in northern Larimer County.
Phil Westra, Weed Science Professor and Extension Specialist at Colorado State University presented an overview of a study being conducted at the CSU Horticultural farm, aimed at determining the sensitivity of various native forbs and grasses to herbicides that are commonly used on pasture and range sites in the northern Larimer County. The results will assist landowners in selecting plants that are less sensitive to specific herbicides and herbicides that are better tolerated by specific plants. Native plants in this study include; blue flax, blanket flower, prairie coneflower, penstemon, scarlet globe mallow, yarrow, four wing saltbush, western wheatgrass, green needle grass, sideoats grama, blue grama and little bluestem.
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David Leatherman, a retired entomologist from Colorado State University spoke on the mountain pine beetle infestation. He reminded landowners that mountain pine beetle is a native insect, and this infestation is a result of an abundance of older trees growing in very dense stands. David had three suggestions for landowners: spray the few tress that you couldn’t bear to lose; walk your land and inspect your trees to identify infected trees, take them down and treat them; once the infestation dies out, manage your forest to prevent overly dense stands of mature trees. A healthy Ponderosa pine forest should look like a park with lots of open grassy areas. It should not be dense, crowded, overgrown or difficult to walk in.
Chad Hoffman, assistant professor of Forest & Rangeland Stewardship at Colorado State University spoke about interactions between beetle-kill trees and wildfire. Because there are so very many variables (weather, wind, humidity, types of fuels etc) affecting wildfire behavior, it is difficult to study just one factor, such as beetle-kill. Some general conclusions that can be drawn from recent studies at CSU in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service RMRS and PNWRS, the University of Idaho and Los Alamos National Lab: increased amounts of “red” beetle-kill trees (dead trees with the needles still on) leads to increased crown fire behavior; a forest containing increased amounts of “grey” beetle-kill trees (trees without needles, standing snags, fallen trees) appears to decrease or cause no significant change in crown fire behavior depending upon weather and topography. Other aspects of fire behavior, such as fire brand production and transport, are still being studied. Many aspects of the role of beetles in wildfire and ecology are not well understood and there is a need for further research and monitoring.
Erica Goad, a graduate student in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, presented an overview of her research on wildlife activity and wildlife habitat in the watershed of the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River. She has placed motion-triggered wildlife cameras in various locations throughout the watershed to document wildlife activity and how it may be affected by differing densities of development throughout the region. Her results may provide insight on how to minimize negative effects of development on wildlife.
The Soaring Eagle Ecology Center of Red Feather Lakes hosted Peter Modreski of the U.S. Geological Survey. Pete gave an informative presentation on the diamond-bearing kimberlite pipes in Larimer County and the adjacent Albany County in Wyoming, as well as information about a few kimberlite pipes and dikes that occur further south in Colorado, near Rocky Mountain Park, Estes Park, and Boulder. Along with diamonds, the “indicator minerals” pyrope garnet (varying from purple and red to orange), chrome diopside (emerald green), and magnesian limonite (metallic black) are found in the kimberlites and are used as prospecting tools. His detailed knowledge, pictures and physical samples brought the history of the diamond-bearing kimberlite pipes to life for over 50 people in attendance at this workshop.