Wellington Fuels Reduction and Forest Health Project
Update 11/2/2020: Project operations are complete. Crews completed cutting and piling on the entire project area. Slash piles will cure (dry) over the next year, with burn operations expected in the winter of 2021/2022 or 2023/2023.
Federal and State Forest service employees will continue to monitor the project area for invasive species (weeds) and natural revegetation including native grasses and forbs, aspen suckers, and conifer regeneration. The area is expected to naturally revegetate and invasives will be treated as appropriate. Researchers with The Nature Conservancy will also be monitoring aspen growth and stand health.
Aspen stands are expected to expand into the recently cut area. A stand of limber pines on the edge of the project unit had the lodgepole pine thinned out of the stand. Limber pines are somewhat rare in Summit County, and are not adapted to frequent or high severity fire. By removing the ingrowth of lodgepole pines, the limber pine have a better chance of surviving a potential fire.
The project operations border private property in many areas. Visitors and residents exploring the project area, hikers, and backcountry skiers are reminded to educate themselves on public land boundaries and respect private property.
The purpose of this project is to reduce hazardous fuels, protect communities, and enhance forest health. By removing burnable vegetation (hazardous fuels) this project will decrease the risk and impacts of wildfire to the Wellington and Lincoln Park communities in the wildland-urban interface, create defensible space, and fuel breaks. It will also foster healthy, long-term forest conditions by promoting the regeneration of lodgepole pine and the expansion of aspen, both of which thrive in open, full-sun conditions.
This project work is anticipated to start in September 2020, with a completion date of October 29, 2021.
The project area is a cross-boundary partnership between the White River National Forest (USFS), Summit County (SCOS), and the Town of Breckenridge (ToB) on forest and open space lands on the Wellington side of the Golden Horseshoe Trail System.
Tree species in the project area include lodgepole pine and aspen, with a limited number (<1%) of Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, bristlecone and limber pine. Living limber pine and bristlecone pine are not included in the cutting prescriptions. The mountain pine beetle infestation resulted in many dead lodgepole pine trees within the project site. A forest inventory was conducted in 2019 across the project area and found 40-60% mortality in the lodgepole pine stands. The inventory also found 75% of the living lodgepole pine are infested with dwarf mistletoe, a native parasitic plant, that causes up to 3% mortality annually and causes stunted growth in regeneration.