Officials plan forest thinning projects to reduce wildfire threats caused by dead, diseased trees in Breckenridge
This summer, fuels reduction projects will take place near Breckenridge, adding more measures to project homes and infrastructure in the wildlife-urban interface.
Over the next few weeks, crews will be out on land near Airport Road and the Peabody Placer area of the Golden Horseshoe to work on fuels reduction, removing dead and diseased trees from the lands to reduce wildfire risk.
The Peabody Placer fuels reduction project is a partnership between Summit County, the town of Breckenridge, and the Dillon Ranger District, and it is being administered by the Colorado State Forest Service. Ashley Garrison, administering forester for the project, said that collaborative partnerships help groups to reduce fuels in the same way.
“Cross-boundary projects allow us to target treatments more effectively in high-priority areas,” Garrison said. “Forests, clean water, fires and wildlife don’t observe property lines on the map.”
Fuels reduction will begin after June 30 to minimize impacts to wildlife during the spring calving season. Operations will conclude by Oct. 31.
This project is being funded as a part of Denver Water’s Forest to Faucets II program and Summit County 1A Strong Future Fund. Signed in 2017, the second Forest to Faucets agreement expanded the original program to include the Colorado State Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Over the next five years, the partners have committed to invest $33 million in forest management projects to restore more than 40,000 acres of forestland, according to Denver Water.
For the Airport Road Project, work that will improve forest health on 24 acres will take place along Airport Road’s western hillside on four open space parcels owned by the town of Breckenridge. Residents near the site will likely hear noise and see forestry activities in the area. Crews will be on site in this area starting late June or early July, and project completion is expected by mid-July 2022. However, contractors have until November for completion.
According to the project page, hand crews with chainsaws will be cutting any standing dead lodgepole pine that is greater than 5 inches diameter at breast height and live lodgepole pines smaller than 5 inches in diameter infested with dwarf mistletoe or with unhealthy canopies. Cut trees and deadfall will be hand piled. After curing, qualified crews will burn the piles when there is significant snow coverage in the winters following project completion. This project was also identified as a high priority in the Summit County Community Wildfire Protection Plan because of the forest condition and proximity to homes, watersheds and essential infrastructure.
Healthy lodgepole pine seedlings and saplings, Engelmann spruce, aspen, and subalpine fir will not be cut unless to provide safety or access. Additionally, forest stands composed of a spruce-fir mix, aspen and live lodgepole and wetland areas are excluded.
Adam Bianchi, district ranger for the Dillon Ranger District, told the Breckenridge Town Council last week that creating more defensive spaces and working with different agencies has been key to getting fuel reduction done.
“This historically has been a high-elevation county that we haven’t burned, and we’ve seen it in some of the adjacent counties like Grand County, where high-elevation lodgepole pine has been hit by mountain pine beetles,” Bianchi said. “We’re at a point now where the fuel loads are at a level where it’s hard for us from a firefighting aspect to safely engage fires.”
This week, the county also entered its fourth week of its free chipping program. From June 20-24, Peak 8, Peak 9, the town of Breckenridge, Western Sky Ranch and Moonstone are scheduled to have their piles chipped and hauled away. For the northern portion of the county, Summit Sky Ranch, Eagles Nest and Three Peaks neighborhoods will also have its scheduled chipping this week.
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