Colorado’s forests are stressed and vulnerable, increasing the likelihood of large fires

Drought has stripped away the forest's ability to naturally fight pests, causing more die off and increasing the risk of large wildfires.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 3:24 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Colorado’s state Forest Service released its annual forest health report Monday, painting a picture of a forest impacted by warm temperatures and below-average precipitation.

Officials say that even though some areas of the state saw monsoonal rains last year, it will still takes years of adequate rain and snow trees to recover. Bark beetles also impacted western Colorado’s trees, with mountain pine and round headed pine beetle contributing to die-offs.

The service also said that large, uncharacteristic wildfires are more likely due to large swaths of collective die-off. It lists living with wildfire and watershed protections as top priorities.

“This report highlights how ongoing drought, an indicator of a warming climate, continues to stress our forests, setting the stage for insect and disease outbreaks and large, destructive wildfires. We know people continue to move into wildfire-prone areas as Colorado’s population grows and more homes are built in the wildland-urban interface. These challenges are enormous, but the state is on the right path to bringing about fundamental changes in the landscape that protect water quality, reduce fuels, and sustain our outdoor recreation economy,” said State Forester and Director of the CSFS Matt McCombs.