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    Author(s): Lee H. MacDonald; John D. Stednick
    Date: 2003
    Source: CWRRI Completion Report No. 196. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University. 65 p.
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.0 MB)


    Forests occupy 22.6 million acres in Colorado, or 32 percent of the land area, and nearly three-quarters of the forest lands in Colorado are in public ownership. About 55 percent of the forested area is considered suitable for forest harvest. National forests comprise nearly half of the forested area and approximately 60 percent of the area is considered suitable for forest harvest. There are no significant, privately owned, industrial forest lands in Colorado. Historic photographs, forest stand records, and other data indicate that forest density in Colorado is generally greater than in the mid to late 1800s. This increase in forest density, attributed to suppression of forest fires, reduced grazing, and lower rates of forest harvest for timber, fuel, and other products, are generally believed to have decreased annual water yields. Annual water yields from the 1.34 million acres of national forest lands in the North Platte River basin are estimated to have decreased by approximately 8 to 14 percent or 135,000 to 185,000 acre-feet per year, depending on the assumed stand history for the spruce-fir forests. Hydrologic models indicate that average annual water yields could be increased in the North Platte River basin by about 55,000 acre-feet per year if all 502,000 acres designated as suitable for timber harvest were regularly harvested on a sustained yield basis. Similar data are not available for other river basins in Colorado, although the overall trends are probably similar. This research looked at how reducing forest canopy affects the rate of spring snowmelt and water yield, how it affects evapotranspiration, what happens when the forest regrows, whether reducing forest density affects water yields if annual precipitation is a factor, the effects on water quality, and the necessity for water storage facilities to store the increased runoff. The report does not attempt to address the myriad of other issues that must be considered when evaluating various management alternatives for forested lands. Some of these issues include the numerous laws and regulations that affect land management, economic considerations, the downstream uses of water and water storage capacities, and the effects of forest management on recreation, local communities, aesthetics, and other plant and animal species.

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    MacDonald, Lee H.; Stednick, John D. 2003. Forests and water: A state-of-the-art review for Colorado. CWRRI Completion Report No. 196. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University. 65 p.


    forests, forest harvest, water yield, hydrologic models, forest management

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