The Colorado State Forest Service began forest fuels reduction work Feb. 22, 2021, on a community fuel break in the foothills of Methodist Mountain, as contractor Rue Logging, Inc. thins trees to reduce wildfire hazard on the Hutchinson Homestead & Learning Center.
Trees are selected for removal to achieve 15 feet of separation between individual and groups of trees, to reduce the potential intensity of a wildfire in the landscape by decreasing the chance of a fire becoming an active crown fire and traveling between tree tops.
The work also involves a masticator to grind and chop vegetation into small pieces. Mastication allows new grasses and shrubs to grow more quickly because more light will reach the ground. This is one of the ways overstocked forest stands are thinned to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health.
Landowner and rancher Art Hutchinson agreed to the forest treatments on 124 acres of the ranch. “A lot of the piñon and juniper trees have grown up over the years and the plants that the elk and deer like to eat are not there anymore for them and the cows,” Hutchinson said. “P-J forest forest fires are hot and scary and there are a lot more homes adjacent to the ranch. We are pleased to have been asked to be a part of this project.”
These forest treatments are part of the 8,200-acre wildfire mitigation and forest health enhancement project taking place on Methodist Mountain and up to Poncha Pass. The project protects the southern flank of the Salida and Poncha Springs communities of 7,000 people by creating a 10-mile-long area of fuel breaks on both public and private lands in the foothills of Methodist Mountain.
Forest treatments on nearly 500 acres of city, state and privately owned lands on the Methodist Front are managed by the Salida Field Office of the Colorado State Forest Service, which has connected the work to complete the fuel break by the end of 2022. Additional forest acreage that connects the fuel break to the Poncha Pass area is already being treated by the U.S. Forest Service Salida Ranger District.