Wildfire Mitigation FAQ
New questions and answers will be added here as they arise.
Note: for definitions of terms highlighted in italics, see the Boulder County Wildfire Mitigation Glossary.
Q. Who is in charge of the wildfire mitigation project?
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research’s Facilities Management and Sustainability department is overseeing the project. UCAR, which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation, has contracted withAnchor Point Group to manage the project.
Q. Who owns the land around NCAR's Mesa Lab?
The 450 acres of land surrounding NCAR’s Mesa Lab is owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is federal property. UCAR manages the land on behalf of NSF. While we host a trail that connects with city-owned open space, the NSF property and the trails running through it are not open space. Cooperative agreements between UCAR and the City of Boulder state that Open Space and Mountain Parks rangers have authority to enforce both open space and NCAR/UCAR rules on UCAR-managed property.
Guidelines for NCAR Mesa Road and trails
Guidelines for City of Boulder open space trails
Q. What coordination exists with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) regarding this project?
NCAR’s wildfire mitigation project is independently managed by UCAR. UCAR communicates with OSMP to keep the City informed about the project and coordinate public information.
Q. What disruption can users of the NCAR trails and Table Mesa neighbors expect?
Table Mesa neighbors can expect some minor disruption to trail access while work is carried out and some noise from equipment during normal business hours.
Q. What has UCAR done to assess the health of the ecosystem it manages?
In 2005, UCAR contracted with Anchor Point Group to complete a detailed Ecosystem Management Plan. This plan addresses responsible stewardship of the 450 acres UCAR manages on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Recommendations in the report include: forest restoration and wildfire management, noxious weed control, and protection of wildlife.
Tree Thinning and Trimming
Q. How many acres will be thinned or pruned?
Approximately 43 acres of forest will be thinned and pruned in 2012, for a total of 75 acres addressed between 2011 and 2012.
Q. How will trees be selected for thinning or trimming?
Thinning was based on individual tree health and spacing. A crown spacing of 15 x 15 feet or stem spacing of 20 x 20 feet is the target goal between retained dominant canopy trees. To achieve that spacing, dominant canopy trees that showed signs of disease or pest activity, or were dead or dying, were removed. To reduce the threat from ladder fuels, saplings and pole-sized trees located within the driplines of larger trees were removed. (The dripline is the outermost circumference of a tree's foliage and branches.) Trees with severe structural defects that were located directly adjacent to pedestrian trails were removed.
The forest now contains fewer dead or dying trees and looks more open. Lower branches of many remaining trees have been pruned to reduce the risk of crown fire development. Some dead or damaged snag trees, which birds and small mammals depend on for shelter and food, have been left in place at the rate of about one to three snags per acre.
Q. Will tree thinning be conducted during red flag periods?
No. During periods of forest work UCAR and Anchor Point Group will monitor the National Weather Service daily for red flag warnings. No forest work off-pavement will take place during a red flag warning period.
Q. What fire safety precautions will forestry workers have in place while thinning or trimming trees?
Forestry workers will be required to have approved and operational spark arrestors on all chainsaws and mechanical equipment. In addition, fire suppression equipment, including shovels, fire extinguishers and water pump packs will be in close proximity to all work areas. The forestry subcontractor will be required to call 911 immediately upon seeing any fire or smoke.
Q. How do we know what's healthy or desirable when it comes to Front Range forests?
In 2005, Anchor Point Group studied forest and grassland conditions on UCAR-managed land and compared those conditions to historical models of ponderosa pine forests along the Front Range. Historically, fire created complex and dynamic landscapes with patches of low-density forest and clearings that came and went along the Front Range. Natural fire reduced tree density and fuel build-up, reducing the risk of high-intensity wildfires. The current mitigation plan relies on a baseline model for forest restoration that brings together information on historic conditions with a review of current tree health on the NCAR site. For more on this topic, see Background on Healthy Forest Management.
Q. Will off-road forestry vehicles negatively impact the land?
Summit Forestry, the group contracted to conduct forest thinning and pruning, specializes in low-impact forest management. While some forestry crew equipment will need to travel off road to complete fire risk reduction thinning, the impact is expected to be short term. Some visible tracks will be created, however those tracks will be reclaimed by new vegetation next spring. The forestry crew will take steps to reduce tracks by avoiding regular travel in any particular area. The area in which work was completed in 2011 has already recovered.