Principles and practices for the restoration of ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests of the Colorado Front Range.


Wildfires have become larger and more severe over the past several decades on Colorado's Front Range, catalyzing greater investments in forest management intended to mitigate wildfire risks. The complex ecological, social, and political context of the Front Range, however, makes forest management challenging, especially where multiple management goals including forest restoration exist. In this report, we present a science-based framework for managers to develop place-based approaches to forest restoration of Front Range ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests. We first present ecological information describing how Front Range forest structure and composition are shaped at multiple scales by interactions among topography, natural disturbances such as fire, and forest developmental processes. This information serves as a foundation for identifying priority areas for treatment and designing restoration projects across scales. Treatment guidelines generally reduce forest densities and surface and crown fuels, enhance spatial heterogeneity across scales, and retain drought- and fire-tolerant species, old trees, and structures important for wildlife. Implementation of these guidelines is expected to enhance forest resilience to disturbance and climate change, as well as sustain important ecosystem services. Finally, this report emphasizes the importance of adaptive management and learning through monitoring and experimentation to address uncertainties inherent in the restoration process.

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