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Heads Up, Hikers: Winds Continue to Topple Trees

courtesy of Sulphur Ranger District
Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest

Falling trees have been an issue in Colorado forests since the mountain pine beetle epidemic hit. But now forest officials are concerned because it’s not only beetle-killed trees coming down.

Thousands of downed trees - both live and dead - have been reported over the last few weeks in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, both in developed hiking and camping areas as well as more remote, dispersed locations. 

“We have had some pretty high winds these past few months, so that’s definitely one of the causes,” says U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Reghan Cloudman. “We have trees that are both uprooting completely and that are breaking off. So people need to know that it’s not just dead trees that can fall – those live ones can, too.”

But forest managers say sometimes even without the wind blowing, trees are falling in such large numbers they’re having a hard time keeping up with removing them.

“The dead trees are rotting at the base,” says Sulphur Ranger District recreation manager Miles Miller. “And the live trees, with all their needles, are catching the wind like sails, blowing over and pulling the dead trees down with them.”

Forest Service crews are planning to cut more than 2,000 hazardous trees along roads and in recreation areas.

Cloudman recommends following a few safety tips when hiking, camping or off-roading, especially in dispersed areas:

  • Look for open areas to park or camp
  • Take a saw or ax to remove fallen trees from roads to avoid being trapped
  • Remember that dead or live trees can fall without warning – even when it’s not windy
As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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