As crews continue to face off against a fast-moving wildfire in northern Colorado, some in the timber industry say the area’s fire danger has been heightened by U.S. Forest Service policies and an economy that discourages them from harvesting millions of acres of dead trees that stand ready to burn.
The High Park Fire has burned about 80 square miles west of Fort Collins, Colo. It is 15 to 20% contained but has been active on its west flank, where there are many beetle-killed trees, fire officials said.
As bad as the fire has been, timber experts say the forests of northern Colorado and southern Wyoming stand primed for more devastating burns.
Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser said poor forest conditions in that area have increased fire danger. “We do have a real unhealthy forest situation out there,” Crapser said. “We have too many trees per acre…and we need to look at ways to thin some of those forests out.”
A 2011 aerial survey showed about 4.6 million acres in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota have been affected by mountain pine beetles since the first signs of the outbreak in 1996. That’s up from about 4.3 million acres in 2010.