From: Pueblo Chieftan
Published October 13, 2008 11:02 AM

Forests, fish and skiers have place in drought plans

Colorado’s forests, already under siege from pine beetles, fire and mismanagement, could fare worse with climate change.

Federal stewards don’t want to see that happen.

"Forests serve as a natural sponge that absorbs, stores and slowly releases water to the rivers," said Tony Dixon, regional deputy forester with the U.S. Forest Service. "If you have no forests, you have no rivers. They are like water towers and they are under siege."

While most think of the Forest Service as a preservation effort, it began after a time when forests were in even worse shape, Dixon said. Mining, logging, grazing and fires had all but destroyed many of the lands initially put under federal protection.

"The Western forests were not pristine," Dixon said. Today, about 22 percent of Colorado land is in national forests, providing 68 percent of the water that flows within and out of the state.

Pine beetle damage to the forests is becoming more obvious each year, as hillsides turn red, then gray. Nights in the mountains are no longer cold enough to kill the bugs.

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