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Individual Highlight

New report offers comprehensive inventory of Colorado’s forests

Photo of Aspen stands affected by drought in southern Colorado.Aspen stands affected by drought in southern Colorado.Snapshot : The current inventory of Colorado’s forests is the first to use the complete set of Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plots across all ownerships and forest types. The inventory was completed at a time when Colorado forests were undergoing substantial change, primarily in the form of insect infestations in pine and spruce, but also because of drought. This report captures the current status and recent trends.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Shaw, John D.  
Research Location : Colorado
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1384


Three statewide forest inventories were reported for Colorado prior to release of the current inventory. The first two were periodic inventories. They were not comprehensive in terms of detail, but assessed the total forest area of Colorado (including “commercial”, “unproductive”, and “productive-reserved” classes) at more than 22 million acres; the same as currently reported despite the fact that the population of the state has more than doubled since the first inventory in 1959. The 1987 report focused primarily on commercial timberlands. The first report based on annualized inventory was published in 2010. This report used data from only half of the inventory cycle (2002-2006), but reported on all ownerships and forest types. The current report uses all data collected from 2002-2013, which includes a full inventory cycle and two years of remeasurement. Using the full-cycle dataset permits greater precision of estimates, and the transition to remeasurement will provide increasing precision of trend-tracking. The most important trend is increasing mortality, resulting in reductions in the live volume of Colorado’s forests. The most significant estimates in Colorado’s forest inventory include high rates of mortality that are causing reductions in net growth in some of the major tree species in the state. These species include lodgepole pine, Engelmann and other spruces, and true fir species groups, but net growth was positive for most of the other major species groups in Colorado, including aspen. Insects and disease are the major contributing factors to the elevated levels of mortality likely related to multi-year weather patterns such as drought.

Additional Resources

Colorado's forest resources, 2004-2013(publication)

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • University of Montana