In Summit County, experts meet to discuss the changing face of the state’s forests |

In Summit County, experts meet to discuss the changing face of the state’s forests

Breeana Laughlin
File photo

A lot has changed since the first Western Colorado Community Forestry Conference was held in Durango in 1990.

Colorado’s forest landscape has been impacted by a major beetle epidemic, and professionals throughout Colorado are gathering to discuss where they go from here.

The forestry conference is returning to Frisco for the first time in 20 years, and its theme is a new forest aesthetic.

“We know the mountain pine beetle changed the ecology of the forest,” said Vince Urbina, with the Colorado State Forest Service. “We want to talk about the problems that have arisen as a result of that.”

Conference organizers recruited a variety of speakers to talk about the new challenges facing Colorado forests.

Tom Eager, with the USDA Forest Service, will discuss the benefits of managing forests. Summit County local Dan Schroder, a Colorado State University extension agent, will be discussing how the formation of partnerships can lead to forest health solutions.

“I’m going to focus on how Summit County has been successful in getting people to work together,” Schroder said.

Randy Mandel and Prakash Kaini, from Golder Associates, will present new techniques to assess fire risk and revegetate the land. Paul Cada, Granby’s assistant district forester, will present lessons learned in community forestry through an after-lunch trail walk, and Rick Herwehe, owner of A Cut Above Forestry, will discuss how to manage weeds in the forest.

Weeds become more problematic in forest areas that have been disturbed — including phenomena such as trees being removed or killed from mountain pine beetles, or in areas impacted by wildfire, Urbina said.

A healthy forest has an layer of canopy that can out-compete weeds, he said. “But when the overstory is removed, the land gets disturbed in the process and it opens up the ground.”

Because weeds, especially non-native weeds, are so aggressive, they tend to be the first vegetation to come in, Urbina said.

“If you control the weeds, eventually the site will return to what it’s supposed to be,” he said.

The conference is geared toward local contractors and partners in forest-related industries, but interested members of the public are welcome to attend.

Conference organizers said participants will get a “big picture” understanding of the challenges facing Colorado forests, as well as education to become good stewards of the land.

“The new aesthetic is tied into us thinking differently about the forest and accepting that nature is going to do its thing whether or not we want it to,” Schroder said.

The Western Colorado Community Forestry Conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco. The cost is $20.

Interested participants can sign up or learn more about conference the by calling Vince Urbina at 970-250-1923 or through email at The registration deadline is at noon on Sept. 5.

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