Across Jeffco Open Space parks in the foothills and mountains of Jefferson County, a mosaic of ponderosa pine savannas, aspen stands, mixed conifer forests, and other woody vegetation provide shade for park visitors and habitat for dozens of native wildlife species. However, these iconic forests are negatively impacted by stressors such as wildfire, habitat fragmentation, pests such as mountain pine beetle, and long-term changes in precipitation. In response, the Natural Resources team plans and implements a range of forest management projects to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, enhance wildlife habitat, and maintain aesthetic and ecological values in our forested parks.
Management actions are initially based on forest inventories and surveys, during which forest conditions are comprehensively assessed and both goals and objectives for the project are defined. Management actions are then refined through consultation with stakeholders, state and federal agencies, and technical specialists. Implementation often involves a combination of Natural Resources staff, private-sector contractors, and researchers assisting with long-term monitoring and evaluation.
Partnering Programs and Agencies
- Colorado State Forest Service
- U.S. Forest Service
- Colorado Forest Restoration Institute
- Upper South Platte Partnership
- Denver Mountain Parks
Starting winter 2021, Jeffco Open Space will be conducting wildfire mitigation and forest restoration in Meyer Ranch Park. This work will focus on healthy forest structure, aspen enhancement, and wildfire risk reduction. Work is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022 and will contribute to our Conservation Greenprint goal for improving forest health on 1,000 acres of JCOS lands by the year 2025.
Treated areas will become much more open as unnaturally dense pockets of trees are thinned. Under natural conditions, frequent low-intensity fires would remove most young conifers, and infrequent high severity fires would almost completely replace dense stands, particularly lodgepole pine. A century of wildfire suppression has created an ecologically unhealthy forest with higher risk of catastrophic wildfire than would naturally occur in this area. JCOS management is intended to mimic the natural processes of fire to restore these forests to a more natural, healthy, and resilient condition. Standing dead trees, down logs, and scattered woody debris will be purposefully left in many areas.
Flying J Ranch Park
In 2017, JCOS and Denver Mountain Parks (DMP) jointly received funding from the State Fire Assistance program to implement a forest management and restoration project at Flying J Ranch Park. The project focused on reducing the density of overgrown mixed conifer stands, promoting aspen stands, and restoring ponderosa pine savanna. The risk of catastrophic wildfire was reduced, while both visitor safety and wildlife habitat enhanced.
Flying J Ranch Park Forest Project Fact Sheet
- JCOS received $64,964 for the treatment of 50 acres. DMP received $129,928 for 100 acres. By applying jointly for the grant, together we were able to treat a larger area of the community and also encourage neighbors to treat surrounding private property.
- In summer and fall of 2018, the JCOS Natural Resources team conducted baseline forest inventories to identify treatment areas and to develop specific management objectives. Tree removal began in October 2018 and the project was completed by Winter 2020. DMP completed their tree removal in 2020 and will be removing remaining equipment and material off-site in spring of 2021.
- JCOS treated 62.9 acres total during this project. 21.1 acres were lodgepole patch-cuts, with 43.14 acres of ponderosa pine treatments. DMP treated about 70 acres at Flying J Ranch Park and their remaining acres across the street at their West Jefferson property adjacent to West Jefferson Middle School.
- Over 570 cords of firewood were removed and utilized by the community through two public firewood sales. JCOS also donated ~20 cut-and-split cords to the nearby Conifer Community Church’s Community Firewood Program, which was distributed to lower income and generally elderly residents of Conifer. Additionally, Elk Creek Fire Department helped JCOS deliver over 100 log rounds to Marshdale Elementary School to be used as seats for the schools outdoor, covid-conscious classes.
Regular forest maintenance activities will occur as needed and JCOS will continue to monitor for noxious weed, erosion, off trail use, and other issues.
Below are before and after treatment photos of three spots within Flying J Ranch Park: