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Mixed Conifer Working Group announces survey results

The Upper San Juan Mixed Conifer Working Group (Working Group) has tabulated results from a survey it handed out to community members during a workshop in October.

The Working Group formed over a year ago with the purpose of finding “collaborative approaches to improving the health and long-term resilience of mixed conifer forests and the communities located near them in southwest Colorado.”

The survey was one step toward accomplishing this mission. By polling the general public, the Working Group has a broader concept of the public’s concern, as well as ideas that may bring the Pagosa area one step closer to healthy, resilient, sustainable forests.

Survey results show a consensus that forest restoration work is needed in the Pagosa Ranger District.

The top priority areas for restoration work to take place, in order of importance, are the areas at highest risk of wildfires that could damage watersheds or private property, areas where work is being done on adjacent properties, and areas in the wildland urban interface.

Additional comments showed particular concern for watersheds and ponderosa pine stands.

Further survey results revealed the top parameter to be taken into consideration when prioritizing restoration projects was the protection of urban water supplies and distribution systems. Tied for second-most important parameters were the restoration of ecosystems to more natural conditions and the reduction of the potential for insect or disease epidemics. The next parameter the public thought important may come as a surprise — the chance to increase opportunities for medium-size wildfire to occur safely.

Concerns listed in the surveys regarding restoration projects included the building of new and permanent roads, forest sustainability, creating or fostering local industry, and the cost-effectiveness of each project.

Other public suggestions that came to light through the survey include mushroom implanting, having the U.S. Forest Service share or transfer the responsibility of protecting homes from wildfire to local or federal governments, hiring a local public relations firm to educate the public as to the need for forest restoration, and support for J.R. Ford’s Renewable Forest Energy LLC biomass project.

According to Working Group facilitator Marsha Porter-Norton, the results of the survey will be used to identify “themes” for the Working Group from which to work. These themes will be used in creating an end-of-year report and also in deciding what the group’s next phase will be. At this time, possibilities for the next phase include educating the public and monitoring the forests.

The Working Group’s next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 20, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Ross Aragon Community Center.

More information on the Working Group may be found at the website.

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