Category Archives: Nature and Wildlife
Snow settles on ground
left thirsty by months of drought,
now kissed by moisture.
The cows and their calves have happily spent the last three months grazing on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forest. October 1st is the off date for our Forest grazing permit. Friends and family help us as we bring the cattle down from their summering grounds.
It has been a summer of fire, with smoke hanging heavy in our Valley much of the time. Only one of these fires, on Baker’s Peak, was close to home. Some of our neighbors lost pastures in fires to the west of us. Fire crews have been hard at work all summer. Professional firefighters go from one fire onto the next, as they achieve control. Many local and volunteer firefighters have also stepped forward to protect their friends and neighbors, and their property. We are once again veiled in smoke, mostly from the Ryan Fire, which is actively burning on the Wyoming/Colorado border about 30 miles to the west of us.
|Estimated Containment Date||Monday October 15th, 2018 approx. 12:00 AM|
|Fuels Involved||Timber Fuel Model. Beetle-killed lodgepole pine and spruce/fir. Pine contains 40-50% dead standing and abundant down timber available to support surface to crown fires. ERCs are near the 97 percentile.|
|Terrain and fuel driven crown runs.|
In 2002, the Hinman Fire burned 31,016 acres in the Routt National Forest. It was part of what became the Mount Zirkel Complex of fires. Much of the burned area included trees blown down by a rare high-altitude wind storm with hurricane force gales. On October 24, 1997, it laid flat 20,000 acres and an estimated 6 million trees. leaving a pick-up-sticks matrix on the ground. The dead trees left perfect habitat for pine beetles, which have scourged the area and left millions and millions of acres of dead trees. Many of those beetle-killed dead trunks still stand, with thousands falling every day throughout the forests of the mountain West.
The Hinman Fire burned hot and hard, and left scorched tree trunks standing tall and dead. The trees were diseased and killed by the beetles, providing the “perfect storm” for the fire. It was particularly impactful to us, since we had 800 ewes and their lambs on the Farwell grazing allotment. In a effort that is still legend, our sheepherder Pepe Cruz brought the sheep down the Elk River drainage, trailing the sheep throughout the night, with a sack of new puppies tied to his saddlehorn. He brought all of the animals under his care out safely, with fire burning on three sides.
We still graze on that allotment. The regeneration of the landscape there gives me hope for the rest of the Forest, which has been devastated by beetles. In the burned over area, still marked by the standing spears of trees burned 16 years ago, the vegetation is rebounding and new growth trees are filling in the landscape. The burned area looks verdant and healthy compared to the rest of the Forest. It gives me hope to see the new forest rising from the ashes.