Fire managers from Rocky Mountain National Park are collaborating with Colorado State University researchers Bill Romme and Monique Rocca to learn more about the impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic on fire behavior.
This pilot project will investigate three important issues: the flammability of lodgepole pine crowns, the mechanisms of pine seed dispersal following beetle attack, and survival of beetle larvae following burning. The purpose of the project is to remove the dead foliage from several stands of beetle-killed trees in the park through the use of prescribed fire and learn more about fire behavior in beetle-killed trees.
Needles on trees killed by beetles remain on the tree for two to three years before falling to the forest floor. There are unknowns regarding how the current outbreak will impact future fire behavior in beetle-killed stands. However, it is thought that the risk of a crown fire may be greater in stands comprised primarily of standing dead trees with red needles than in stands of green trees.
The prescribed burn will be ignited after a snow or sufficient wetting rain. This prescribed burn unit is located in Horseshoe Valley, south of Fall River and north of Deer Ridge Junction.
There are several objectives of the project:
– To break up the continuous canopy of standing dead trees between the park and adjacent communities to minimize the risk of a high intensity fire burning out of the park;
– To advance scientific knowledge of fire behavior in beetle-killed lodgepole pine;
– To determine if burning crowns of recently attacked trees has any impact on lodgepole pine regeneration or on the survival rates of overwintering beetle larvae.
Safety factors, weather conditions, air quality and environmental regulations are continually monitored as a part of any fire management operation. For more information, contact the park information office at (970) 586-1206.