Forest fires, as we saw recently, in South Park with the Weston Pass fire can be traumatic for people, livestock, wildlife, soil health, and water quality.  People discussed charred pine needles dropping out of the sky like rain.   Fire can be life threatening, however fire is not the enemy in nature.  Out of control forest fires of higher intensity are the challenge.  Collectively, we can all do more to help in our backyards to decrease the destructiveness of fires.  Here are a few important actions we can take.

  1. Thinning out trees in dense stands and reducing ladder fuels.
  2. Create buffer zones to protect structures and allow firefighters to have a corridor of less intense heat if a fire were to break out in your area.
  3. Communication, networking, and collaboration for emergency response.
  4. Finding funding and assistance for fire mitigation work.
  5. Work together as a community of stewards.

High intensity fires do more harm.  More heat generated damages deeper levels of the soil and erosion is a result.  More erosion means more sediment deposited in our reservoirs, rivers and streams.   Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center has been working on a forestry plan for many years and this year was encouraged to continue by the USDA and NRCS “Forest to Faucets program” for the next five years with a Forest Management Plan aimed at improving the long-term health of the forest and ultimately water quality of the Sacramento Creek.  

In a recent, well-written r Ute Country News article by the Coalition for the Upper South Platte(CUSP) the importance of our watershed is discussed by highlighting the enormous size of the water drainage for the Arkansas Basin.  The article is titled “Working Together” and states; “The Arkansas basin is one of the four main tributaries to the Mississippi River which is the third largest watershed in the world, draining 41% of the Contiguous United States, along with a bit of Canada.  

The importance of collaboration was also discussed in the work with the Coalitions and Collaboratives, Inc. (COCO) and Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative (ARWC).  We can and need to do more to minimize high intensity fires.  Sitting at the top of some of the largest watersheds we can help be responsible stewards near the source, thus helping all downstream.  

Selective thinning of forests is a great way to help reduce the amount of long-burning fuels and ladder fuel that lead to high intensity fires.  Lower intensity fires damage less of the soil and allow firefighters to gain entry into areas to manage fires.  Less erosion is better for the flora, fauna, and water.  Less material burning in a fire also means less particulate getting into our air.