Conservation Corner: Forest health and watershed impacts

Forests play a major role in natural systems. Forests can protect watershed health and function, provide suitable habitat for numerous wildlife species, promote a robust logging industry, provide soil erosion control, supply forage for livestock, and offer endless recreational opportunities. While healthy forests provide these benefits, a mismanaged or unhealthy forest poses a grave threat to natural resources and all that depend upon them.

A healthy forest consists of trees of all ages, sizes, and multiple species. Forest management promotes diversity and healthy regrowth for future generations. The health of the local watershed relies on the health of the forests. Trees help hold water, increasing percolation while decreasing run-off. This increases ground water for recharge into important aquifers. Trees and their root systems also provide a filtration system, keeping water clean as it enters the watershed.

A monoculture (one species) increases the chances of a devastating disease or parasite and limits resilience due to natural disasters. A monoculture and excessive tree density allows for quick dispersal of common pests like Pine beetles. The Pine beetle can affect large tracts of forest, creating massive areas covered in dead standing trees, as we have seen across the Rocky Mountains. Dead forests provide greater wildfire potential like we have witnessed this year. Following a large wildfire, soil erosion increases significantly with no vegetation to hold it in place.

Therefore, forests must be managed. Selective timber harvesting, livestock grazing, and prescribed burns are common methods for managing forests to promote optimal forest health and provide economic stability. Proactive forest management can prevent epidemic infestations, decrease the risk of fire, reduce sediment run-off, and improve the quality of local water. Visit for more forest-related information.