The Forest Health Task Force in Summit County is working to plant the seeds for a larger program this year.
At a meeting last Thursday, Jan. 16, the Forest Health Task Force continued to work on planning expansion for the 2014 volunteer forest-monitoring program. The program currently has 20 volunteers, and is looking for about 30 more to help work on upcoming forest research and data collection.
Task force president Howard Hallman said the mission of the organization in is to educate the public on forest health and wildfire issues and to monitor long-term forest conditions. As the group plans for 2014, Hallman said it wants to expand the volunteer monitoring program to include all of Summit County, where volunteers will be trained to follow U.S. Forest Service protocol to document forest change, providing detailed data on growth and climate.
“The biggest take-home is that it can be very powerful to have people facilitate their own backyards and homes,” he said.
In December, the task force formed three committees: county-wide monitoring, forest forensics and noxious weeds/invasive species. The FHTF hopes to prepare the testing protocol for volunteers to use by its February meeting.
There are four key questions guiding the task force in 2014 with the volunteer program. The first concerns forest forensics: What did Summit forests look like before the miners came? For Straight Creek: What is the impact of climate and geography on forest regeneration? For the weed program,: Where and what weed/invasive species outbreaks are occurring? Finally, for the county-wide backyard monitoring program: What are current forest conditions and how are they changing?
There will be 30 plots monitored throughout the county, looked at about three times each, Hallman said. The volunteer monitoring program has previously worked on Forest Service land,and in the Straight Creek Watershed in partnership with the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District.
“We want to look at various forest types, places with logged trees and places that have not been logged,” he said. “We want to look at what regeneration looks like, the indicators of the state of the forest.”
Hallman said interested volunteers should sign up soon, so they can be properly trained. For example, for the weed program, Hallman said volunteers will be trained to use a GPS device to track the location and size of the outbreak.
“We want them trained soon, so that when the snow melts they can hit the ground running,” he said.
People who want to gain a connection with nearby forest lands, Hallman said, should come to the task force meetings or volunteer for the monitoring program. This amount of data can’t be gathered by the Forest Service, he said, because there are not enough resources.
“Anyone concerned about wildfire, about dead trees, whether the forest will come back and what the habitat will look like — those are all reasons to get involved close to home,” he said.
For more information about the Forest Health Task Force, call (719) 491-1807 or visit www.foresthealthtaskforce.org. The next meeting of the Forest Health Task Force will be from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 at the Silverthorne Library.