Update to Forest Stewardship Plan Underway
The City of Longmont established a Forest Stewardship Plan and program in 2003. Since then the City has carried out a forest thinning treatment of approximately 80 acres every year. To date over 1,000 acres of forestland in Button Rock Preserve has been treated.
Forest thinning treatments are essential to keeping the Ponderosa pine forests of Button Rock Preserve healthy, and for reducing the risk of a severe wildfire that could threaten the high quality drinking water provided by the Preserve. Historically, regular low-intensity surface fires started by lightning would keep the forest open and prevent fuels from building up that could put the forest at risk for a more severe fire. Over the past one hundred years, however, these natural fires have not occurred and the forest now needs to be actively managed through thinning to maintain it in a healthy state. The past thirteen years of active management have helped to keep the forest healthy and provide for clean drinking water to the residents of Longmont.
The updated Forest Stewardship Plan builds on this decade of work, and further refines the management prescriptions based on current forest management practices and science. An extensive forest inventory carried out by the Colorado State Forest Service in Button Rock during the summer of 2016 also serves as the foundation for this updated plan. This plan will guide the ongoing forest stewardship program in Button Rock Preserve for the next ten to twenty years.
Button Rock Preserve is a public property that provides the majority of Longmont’s drinking water. It is also a favorite place for many folks across the region to hike, fish, and enjoy nature. As such, it is important that the public is aware of the Forest Stewardship Plan update and have the opportunity to voice their thoughts. A public consultation period is open through February 14, 2017, during which time comments are invited on the draft Forest Stewardship Plan.
Share your thoughts. Contact Keith Stagg by 2/14/2017
City Advisory Boards
Button Rock Preserve also adjoins other public lands including US Forest Service land and Boulder County Parks and Open Space properties, as well as several parcels of private lands. City staff is working directly with these neighbors to give them an opportunity to review and comment on the Forest Stewardship Plan.
The plan will be revised in late February and early March, 2017, based on comments received from all stakeholders. City staff will be available to present and discuss the plan at the Big Projects Open House on March 2, 2017. Once a revised draft is finalized, it will be sent to the Longmont City Council for official adoption.
Watershed & Wildlife Resiliency Coordinator
Button Rock Forest Stewardship Program
The City’s resource management program for the Button Rock Dam watershed has consistently focused on preservation of the fragile natural environment. Abundant regeneration of trees and quick suppression of all wildfires within the area has contributed to dense timber stands and thick understory throughout the preserve. With drought conditions in the last decade, many trees have shown the effects of stress, insect infestation and disease with large percentages of timber and brush mortality occurring. This is not unique to the City of Longmont watershed, as regional forest health is experiencing the same dynamics. Efforts to move forward with restoration by improving forest stand densities using selective thinning prescriptions, in conjunction with the natural processes, are occurring throughout the front range of Colorado.
The City of Longmont contracted with an environmental consultant to assist with the development of a management plan which would insure forest health and watershed protection. The necessary inventories and studies were completed in June 2003. The resulting plan addresses current forest conditions through forest plot research modeling, vegetative inventories, wildfire fuels modeling, wildlife listings according to habitat suitability, and noxious weed management. Based on the plan research, one recommendation is for forest thinning activities.
Generally, the forest areas of Button Rock Preserve are dense with Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine trees on the north facing slopes with extremely tight foliage canopies. The dry, southern slopes are open meadow land with clumping of Juniper and Pines. The east and west aspects have a blend of dense and open timber stands. The management plan recommendation is to thin the trees throughout the watershed concentrating on disease and insect infestations, and to reduce stand densities. This will create a healthier and less competitive environment for the remaining trees. This will also reduce the potential for a catastrophic wildfire spreading across the treetops.
Varying degrees of timber thinning will occur within the watershed according to individual site conditions. Some locations will not be actively managed due to extreme slope and lack of access. Wildlife will continue to thrive throughout the watershed, as mature nesting trees and many areas of thick cover will remain.
Please contact Forestry if you have comments or questions regarding the Button Rock Preserve Forest Stewardship Program.