Cutting Hazard Trees:
The First Step Back Into The Forest
of burned trees is a dangerous place. Dead or dying trees-their trunks,
roots and branches weakened by fire-can easily topple. A sad example is
the tree that fell on a firefighter in a burned area of the Missionary
Ridge Fire, killing him instantly.
first step in making the forest safe is to start removing trees that
pose a hazard. The burn area is far too large to remove all the hazard
trees, so the first priority will be the roads and trails (the areas
people use most), and trees on residential boundaries.
The Forest Service is planning to cut
hazard trees along more than 250 miles of Forest Service roads and
trails, and on forest land adjacent to residences within the burn area.
(Trees within 100 feet will be evaluated for felling). Six to 8,000
acres will be subject to treatment. On about 1600 acres, trees will be
felled and removed through commercial timber sale. Cut trees on the
remaining acreage will be left in place.
Generally, a tree will be declared a
hazard tree if it is dead or most of its crown is scorched; more than 50
percent of its circumference at its based is charred; its root system is
burned or compromised; or there's presence of insect activity.
Most of the work will be completed by
this fall, but some work may extend into the summer and fall of
Post-Hayman Fire Hazard Tree Removal
Questions and Answers
September 20, 2002
In the wake of this year’s Hayman and Schoonover wildfires, the Pike
National Forest will be cutting hazard trees along more than 250 miles
of Forest Service roads and trails and on forest land adjacent to
residences within the burned area. This work would occur in Jefferson,
El Paso, Douglas, Teller and Park Counties, Colorado. It is anticipated
that the majority of the work will be completed by this fall, though
some of the work may extend into summer or early fall 2003.
Q.: Why is the Pike National Forest proposing to cut trees burned in the
A.: Safety is our first priority, for both forest users and Forest
Service employees. Dead or dying trees, with their roots and branches
weakened by fire, can easily topple, posing a serious safety risk to
both people and property. This was evidenced during the recent
Missionary Ridge Fire, where a firefighter was killed by a still live
tree that fell on him as he worked in the burned area.
Q.: Why doesn’t the Forest Service cut hazard trees throughout the
entire burned area instead of being limited to primarily roads, trails
and around residences?
A.: The Hayman Fire burned a very large area within the Pike National
Forest. The area is simply too large to remove all hazard trees that are
within the burned area perimeter. However, since the most serious risk
to people and property is along roads and trails, as well as in areas
that abut residences, that’s where we are concentrating our efforts. The
remainder of the burned area of the forest remains closed to public
access. Hazards include trees or parts of trees falling on people and
property, blocking roads and trails or creating associated hazards.
Q.: What is the scope of the project?
A.: Approximately 250 miles of roads and trails within the perimeter of
the burned area will be evaluated for hazard tree treatment, as well as
those forest areas that abut residences. Hazard trees within 100 feet of
a road, trail or residential boundaries may be felled and removed. Thus,
approximately 6 to 8 thousand acres of forest land will be subject to
Of the total, approximately 8,400 acres of hazard trees will be felled
and left in place, with the work performed through a combination of
service contractors and U.S. Forest Service personnel. The remaining
1,600 acres would be felled through salvage timber sale contracts with
the merchantable trees removed, thus reducing the overall taxpayer costs
for the project. Cut trees on the remaining acreage will be left in
Q.: How do you identify a hazard tree?
A.: A hazard tree is a dead or damaged tree that can fall across a road,
trail or property. Burned trees would be cut if they meet at least one
of the following criteria, indicating they will die or be a hazard:
· A majority of the tree’s crown is scorched;
· Fifty percent or more of the tree’s circumference at its base is
charred. This may also create pitch streaming. With pitch streaming
occurring and significant charring, a tree will likely die;
· The root system of the tree has burned or been compromised, making it
unstable, or the tree has burned-out stump holes within three feet of
it. These will generally produce enough heat to kill a significant
portion of the roots;
· The presence of insect activity (boring holes, frass, boring dust).
This indicates that a tree is going to die.
Q.: Will these trees be cut for a timber sale?
A.: We expect that approximately 1,600 acres, or about 16 percent of the
total area to be treated for hazard tree removal, will be treated
through commercial timber sale. It’s expected that these trees will
yield about 2 million board feet of timber. The remaining hazard trees
in the treated areas will be felled in place. The commercial portion of
the hazard tree removal effort is expected to begin by mid-September,
once the bid solicitation process is complete.
Q.: What will be done with those hazard trees that are not commercially
A.: In general, those trees would be felled and left in place. There may
be instances where some would be contour-felled; i.e. felled or placed
in a manner that would assist us in our efforts to stabilize soils,
reducing erosion or preventing debris from entering watershed areas and
Q.: Will cutting require skid trails that could damage soils?
A.: Skidding would occur mostly on roads to minimize ground disturbance.
Where skidding from roads is not appropriate, short skid trails lying
perpendicular to the roadway would be used.
Q.: What measures will be taken to prevent erosion in cut areas?
A.: Disturbed soils would be rehabilitated using mulch, seeding, and/or
planting. Damaged cut and fill slopes would be re-contoured.
Q.: What is the timing for this project?
A.: The hazard tree removal program began August 27. Most of the work is
expected to be completed this fall, enabling the Burned Area Emergency
Rehabilitation (BAER) hydro-mulching to occur along the roads and
trails. Some of the hazard tree work, however, will continue through
summer and fall of 2003.
Q.: What type of environmental analysis will be done in regard to this
A.: This project falls under Forest Service Categorical Exclusion
31.1b.4: “Repair and maintenance of roads, trails and landline
boundaries.” It involves activities normally undertaken to maintain
roads, trails and boundaries, and would not have a significant effect on
the human environment.