Front Range & Black Hills
Forest Reconstruction Network


Management of ponderosa pine forests is increasingly important as the wildland urban interface expands and as climate change and human activity alter the way our forests behave. The National Fire Plan funds research on what the forests along the Colorado Front Range and Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota and Wyoming looked like though history.

National and local level management directives have increased the rate and scale of treatments aimed at restoring ponderosa pine-dominated forests of the Colorado Front Range and the Black Hills National Forest. The desired conditions of a restored ponderosa pine forest have been intensely debated, particularly in the Colorado Front Range and Black Hills National Forest, where desired conditions have been informed by a pool of local research that only partially describes the historical ranges of variability of key ecosystem structures and processes, and therefore draws heavily from studies done in other parts of ponderosa pine’s extensive range. The  Forest Reconstruction Network (FRNet) was designed to characterize patterns of historical forest structure and fire across the entire range of ponderosa pine in the  Colorado Front Range and the Black Hills National Forest so that restoration treatment prescriptions can be more fully informed.


FRNet consists of nearly 180 half hectare plots with data collected on current and historical (ca. 1860) forest structure (density, basal area, size and age distributions, composition, stand spatial patterns) and fire history. The network can inform management with location-based reference conditions and provides a robust dataset for exploring how ponderosa pine ecology varies across large environmental gradients.

Ben Gannon