It’s not your imagination. More trees than ever are standing dead in Colorado forests |

It’s not your imagination. More trees than ever are standing dead in Colorado forests

Annual survey estimates there are 834 million standing-dead trees, state threatening watersheds and worsening risk of ruinous fires

By BRUCE FINLEY | | The Denver Post
Standing-dead trees are shown on Wolf Creek Pass in Mineral County. One in 14 trees are dead in Colorado forests and over the past seven years, the number of gray-brown standing-dead trees increased 30 percent to about 834 million, according to the state’s annual forest survey.
Photo provided by Colorado State Forest Service

One in 14 trees are dead in Colorado forests and the number of gray-brown standing-dead trees has increased 30 percent since 2010 to 834 million, the state’s annual survey has found.

The dying trees — largely the result of insect infestations — can lead to large intense wildfires, such as the Beaver Creek fire in 2016 that burned 38,000 acres northwest of Walden, Colorado State Forest Service officials said Tuesday as they unveiled the report.

They’re planning to warn state lawmakers that unhealthy forests and wildfires increasingly will affect people and water supplies. On Tuesday, they distributed copies of their Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests in the state capitol. A Joint Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing they hoped to attend was canceled.

“When so many trees die and large wildfires follow, our forests quickly turn from a carbon sink into a carbon source,” state forest service director Mike Lester said. “Beyond the implications for our atmosphere, forests in poor health have implications for our water supplies, public safety, wildlife and recreation opportunities.”

Yet trees also are regenerating in the forests, Lester said. “That’s our new forest. Now, I would much rather have a new forest without 800 million dead trees standing all over it.”

Read the rest of the story and key findings in The Denver Post.

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