Rob Addington - Restoring dry, frequent-fire forests in the face of global change
In the last decade, much emphasis has been placed on restoration of dry coniferous forests of the western U.S. out of concern that these forest types are increasingly vulnerable at large scales to severe disturbance and impacts related to global change. Along Colorado’s Front Range, some 1.5 million acres of ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests have been identified as in need of treatment to improve forest health and to protect communities. While consensus has been reached regarding general restoration goals, the process and path forward for achieving desired outcomes has not been clearly articulated. I will describe a science-based restoration framework being developed for Front Range forests that emulates natural disturbance patterns, forest developmental processes, and variation across environmental gradients in order to enhance forest complexity and heterogeneity at multiple scales. Key components of the approach include multi-scaled planning to identify priority areas for treatment, and treatment designs that reduce densities, enhance spatial heterogeneity, retain drought-and fire-tolerant species, and retain old trees. Implementation of the framework is expected to enhance forest resilience and help reestablish a low to mixed-severity fire regime through either prescribed fire or management of wildland fire. Additionally, the framework emphasizes the importance of adaptive management and opportunity for learning through monitoring and experimentation in order to address uncertainty that accompanies the restoration process.