Colorado wildfires: State locked into losing approach of suppressing wildfires rather than boosting forest health, experts say

Colorado wildfires: State locked into losing approach of suppressing wildfires rather than boosting forest health, experts say

March 10, 2019
The Denver Post

Colorado leaders are facing hard facts on the state’s increasingly strained forests: 1,249 wildfires burned a near-record 524,282 acres last year, five times the average.

The warmest forest temperatures in 124 years baked soil and trees, with precipitation nearly the lowest since record-keeping began, federal data show. Spruce beetles gobbled another 178,000 acres, expanding their total infestation beyond 1.8 million acres, aerial surveys found.

And money spent trying to suppress wildfires — $40 million by the state and $120 million by the U.S. Forest Service, three times what the feds spent in 2017 — drained coffers.

“If we don’t start paying attention to the health of our forests, it is not going to get better,” state forester Mike Lester warned in an interview with The Denver Post. “There’s no way you can have a situation like this, with the forest health issues we have, where you can ignore it and expect it to get better. People are going to have to invest in the health of our forests.”

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