Regeneration of state’s aspen population may be threatened | SummitDaily.com
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Regeneration of state’s aspen population may be threatened

THE ASSOICIATED PRESS

FORT COLLINS ” Colorado’s ubiquitous aspen trees are an average of 120 years old and may be threatened by fire suppression and hungry elk and cattle, a state forest service report says.

Last year aerial surveys last year found thousands of acres of potential aspen die-offs in Colorado’s prime aspen viewing and harvesting areas on the Western Slope.

“That’s the first time massive die-offs have been reported in Colorado,” said Wayne Shepperd, a research silviculturist for the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins.

In some areas, conifers are replacing aspen, and elk and cattle are eating young aspen suckers.

He said it remains unclear how serious the problem is. It could be a cyclical event as old aspens die. It also is possible that entire root systems are dying.

“This might be that. I certainly hope not,” said Shepperd.

Aspen trees are among the first to grow after fire or other disturbances, including logging and blow downs, according to the report. Eliminating these disturbances could eradicate aspen stands, the report said.

The loss of Aspen would be a major blow to the tourism industry. Many tourists come to watch the changing of the colors.

“It’s a huge draw. A lot of people really like to come to Colorado at that time of year,” said Sara Bell, a program assistant in the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade who works on state marketing and promotional materials.


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