Front Range - Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program
(FR - CLFRP)

PURPOSE

The Collaborative Forest Restoration Landscape Program was designated to accelerate ongoing restoration treatments that provide long-lasting ecological, social and economic benefits to ponderosa pine forests surrounding Colorado’s Front Range.

Project recommendations are based on the document “Living with Fire: Protecting Communities and Restoring Forests” authored by a collaborative group known as the Front Range Roundtable.

Logo of the Front Range Roundtable. Graphic is a house and trees in front of mountains
The Roundtable is a coalition of individuals from different level of government, environmental organizations, scientific communities, and industry and user groups.
CONTEXT

Since 1860, human activities such as urban development, fire suppression, timber harvest, and grazing have changed the forests along the Front Range. Uniform forests now stand in areas that were historically complex mosaics of forest densities. As a result, nearly one million acres of dense, uniform forests are now vulnerable to large and severe wildfires.

In 2009, Congress passed the Title IV of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act and established the CFLR Program. The 1.5 million-acre project landscape covers parts of the Arapaho and Roosevelt, and Pike and San Isabel National Forests (see map below). The Front Range Roundtable has identified 800,000 acres of land that are high-priority for restoration treatments.

Under this program, approximately 32,000 acres of National Forest System lands will be treated, much of which is located within the wildland–urban interface. The landscape-scale effects of this work will be complimented by existing and future treatments on adjacent federal and non-federal lands.

OUR INVOLVEMENT

CFRI has provided science that reconstructed historical forest structures and revealed how they functioned before modern human influence. This science helped the Roundtable make informed treatment goals and decisions.

CFRI is currently working with the U.S. Forest service to collect, compile, and analyze data about the ecological outcomes of U.S. Forest Service forest restoration treatments.  This guides discussions about future management planning and implementation.

CFRI provides support for monitoring of:

  • Forest structure and composition
  • Fine-scale forest spatial heterogeneity
  • Understory response
  • Potential wildlife impacts
  • Landscape-scale impacts
METHODS

Scientists participating in this initiative have used dendrochronology studies to reconstruct the structure and composition of Front Range forests back to 1860.

Since 2011, scientists have established a large network of over 500 plots to monitor the ecological outcomes of restoration treatments. Some recent monitoring efforts also include surveys of wildlife and understory plants, including shrubs, herbaceous plants, and non-native plants. Aerial and satellite imagery is being used to better understand how this program’s forest treatments preserve or restore the natural mosaic nature of Front Range forests which were historically characterized by a patchwork of treeless gaps, tree clusters, and scattered individual trees.

Photo: Peter M. Brown, Rocky Mountain Tree Ring Research

RESULTS

In general, historical reconstructions reveal that Front Range ponderosa pine forests were more open and park-like with complex spatial structure. To date, short-term monitoring efforts of program treatments suggest that restoration treatments are successfully shifting forest structure toward desired conditions by decreasing forest densities, increasing gaps and openings, and increasing herb cover without significant impacts on wildlife use. Ongoing monitoring has also provided information to improve restoration outcomes in other areas such as increasing spatial heterogeneity that further favors ponderosa pine.

Map of the front rang eof Colorado with areas of high wildfire potential highlighted
IMPACTS AND APPLICATIONS

The primary goal of this program is to continuously adapt and improve upon forest  restoration treatment outcomes across Colorado’s Front Range. Annual meetings offer researchers, forest managers, and community members a platform to discuss how new ongoing research and monitoring results can be used to improve subsequent forest treatments.

STAFF
Brett Wolk
Jeffery Cannon
Ben Gannon
Kevin Barrett