Colorado Springs forest thinning angers residents
COLORADO SPRINGS — The city has launched a major effort to remove dead trees and improve forest health after a fire burned hundreds of homes last year, but the project has angered some city Colorado Springs residents.
City contractors have been removing trees in about a dozen areas after the City Council approved $1 million from its reserve funds for fuel reduction and forest restoration.
Resident Dave Stoller wasn’t happy when he found a freshly cut tree stump in a park behind his neighborhood.
“Look what they have done here,” he said, his voice shaking. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Stoller and other residents are trying to stop the work but having little success.
Across the city, crews are cutting down invasive trees such as the Siberian elm that choke life out of other trees, plants and grasses. They also are cutting away smaller, less healthy trees to breathe new life into taller, stronger pines, said Dennis Will, city forester.
Will said crews are trying to be good forest stewards while protecting residents, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported Monday (http://tinyurl.com/k4jxpu6).
John Linder saw a stack of trees on the side of the Union Meadows trail and questioned the city’s rationale.
“I can understand fire mitigation, but they would have to cut down the whole forest on the side hill if they are concerned about fire. Why cut one tree and not another?” he asked.
The Waldo Canyon fire played a part in the emergency funding request. The $1 million will allow thinning on 600 acres of the city’s 15,000 acres of parks and open space areas. Two people died last year in the Waldo Canyon Fire, which burned 346 homes and 28 square miles in Colorado Springs.
On July 10 and Aug. 9, flash floods swept numerous cars off the road and killed one person near the city. Areas burned by wildfires are vulnerable to flash floods because the scorched soil absorbs less water.
Resident Mike Proctor said the city rushed into its tree-cutting program. He worries that taking out smaller trees creates an opportunity for storm water to cascade down onto Union Boulevard.
“If you denude a landscape of vegetation, you increase the chance of flooding and mud slides,” Proctor said. “I would rather see us mitigate around our homes before we start chopping the forest down.”
Proctor wants a temporary hold on tree removal until residents can talk about their concerns with city foresters.
“I hope we are getting the correct and accurate information,” he said. “I have to be assured what I’m told is accurate, and I don’t have a warm fuzzy feeling right now.”
Stoller said he also worries about the effect of thinning the forest on the animals, including mountain lions and deer, which live in Union Meadows. He would like to see an environmental impact study on areas under consideration for tree removal.