Unique set of challenges for a uniquely structured forest

COLORADO – Rocky Mountain Research Station Science Application and Communication staff, along with the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, hosted two field workshops in September. These workshops highlighted the science and practical application of forest restoration from the recently published RMRS General Technical Report 373, “Principles and practices for the restoration of ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests of the Colorado Front Range.” The goals and objectives of the workshop were to engage forest managers along the Colorado Front Range in a way that would translate science-based principles and practices for restoration in this area to real-life, on-the ground projects.

This forest restoration framework needed a thoughtful, targeted rollout strategy. This included, in addition to presenting to forest management, leadership groups, and silviculturists in traditional meeting settings, gathering people that implement forest restoration projects on the Colorado Front Range together to look at projects and talk through the process of moving from principles into practice.

Since the gradients/conditions vary along the Colorado Front Range, conducting two workshops made the most sense: one in the northern Front Range near Red Feather Lakes, and one in the southern Front Range on the Pikes Peak Ranger District. Each workshop had 65-80 participants plus 20 presenters, representing an impressive number of organizations that manage Colorado Front Range forests.

A diverse author group of scientists, land managers and non-profit organizations including RMRS, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, CFRI, U.S. Geological Survey, Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research and the Natural Resource Conservation Service—a true example of co-production—got together to discuss and research what was lacking from our understanding of Colorado Front Range forests. The Colorado Front Range is unique in its topography, growing conditions and resulting forest structure. Through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and the need for local science for Colorado Front Range, the authors wrote multiple studies to guide restoration. After years of thought and a lot of effort and collaboration from the author group, RMRS published GTR-373 in January 2018.

After careful review and analysis of the post-workshop evaluations for both workshops, the next steps in promoting the science from the GTR-373 will be smaller, more targeted workshops designed to address specific needs along the Colorado Front Range.


Southern Workshop participants, Pikes Peak Ranger District. Photo courtesy of Katherine Oldberg.

GTR-373 author Jonas Feinstein from the Natural Resource Conservation Service leads Northern Workshop participants into an untreated ponderosa and mixed-conifer forest near Shambhala Mountain Center, south of Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Karina Puikkonen.

GTR-373 Southern Workshop participants in one of the six breakout sessions in a treated ponderosa forest on the Pikes Peak Ranger District. Photo courtesy of Katherine Oldberg.


Northern Workshop participants, Shambhala Mountain Center, south of Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Karina Puikkonen.