What Will Be Destroyed?

While listening to audio tapes of the Larimer County Commissioner’s meetings on the tower from 2008-2009, there has been one common thing missing.  There has been no discussion on what impacts there will be to the environment.  ZERO. ZILCH. NONE.

So let’s take a look at what will be damaged and destroyed by the tower project.

To start off, power lines will be running from the junction of Deadman and Red Feather Lakes Road, going west along Deadman, until they reach Killpecker Rd (FSR 300).  They will then head south along Killpecker Rd. until they reach the summit of Middle Bald Mountain.  Power poles will be placed every 250′ along the way.

Mixed Aspen, Fir, and Spruce along the road, providing habitat to various wildlife species.

Deadman Road is a diverse area of Lodgepole and Ponderosa Pine, with scattered groupings of Aspen, Fir, and Spruce.  These areas are prime habitat for wildlife and many depend upon it for their survival.  With the extensive loss of the pines, these areas are even more important.

The placement of power lines will remove a 20-50′ swath of prime habitat.  The removal of these trees will be a substantial loss of habitat and will also result in the loss of various types of plants that depend on the fir/spruce habitat to survive.  One such plant is the Calypso Orchid, whose populations have already sharply declined due to loss of habitat.  Many types of mushrooms that provide food for bears and other animals will also perish.

Aspen are of prime value to wildlife.  Moose and Elk eat bark from the Aspen trees in the winter to survive when the snow is deep. You can actually tell the snow depth in an area by looking at the height of the marks made on the trees made by the wildlife.

This Aspen, which I have fondly named “Grandma” measures 102 inches in diameter.  From all appearances, she is the founder of the nearby Aspen grove shown in the slideshow.

The largest Aspen in the US measures 152 inches in diameter, so this one has a way to go in setting a record, but is a magnificent tree none the less.

Grandma Aspen lies right in the path of the proposed power line and more than likely will be removed.  This will be a tragic loss to all who enjoy the shade she provides in the summer while having a picnic in the pull over area near gate 1.  Chances are good that many of the other Aspen in this grove will also be removed.

Middle Bald Mountain is an Alpine Peak, at approximately 11,000 feet in elevation.  With short growing seasons, harsh winds, and sub-zero temps, the plants that grow there are fragile to disturbance.  According to the Rocky Mountain National Park Service,  “Repeated footsteps often destroy tundra plants, leaving exposed soil to blow away, and recovery may take hundreds of years. ”  If mere footsteps will take hundreds of years to repair, the construction of the tower, and damage to the surrounding work area, may never be repairable.  While Larimer County has a “list” of grasses for re-seeding, NONE of them are native to the Alpine Tundra and may in fact, do more harm than good.  The Killpecker Road is home to many Alpine plants that will be lost due to power pole installation and regular road maintenance.  I have personally identified Alpine (Rosy) Paintbrush, King’s Crown, Queen’s Crown, and several other species of Alpine plants in the area.

The CCNC 800mhz system that Larimer County is proposing requires that “The site must be accessible to normal, sedan type vehicles on a regular basis.”  The site must also be accessible year around.  These rules will require the county to maintain both Deadman Rd. and Killpecker for access to the tower.  Currently the county grades Deadman approximately once a year and during that process manages to destroy habitat on a regular basis.  Trees, for no apparent reason, are bulldozed over, with little to no regard.  This happens all along Deadman and I have also witnessed it on Killpecker.  With the requirements for regular road maintenance, how many more trees will fall under the road grader’s blade?   (See slideshow for more photos)

The Forest Service has estimated that 29 ACRES of trees will have to be removed in the process of construction of the tower and power lines.   Currently there are 587,000 acres of forest affected by the Mountain Pine Beetles in Larimer County, this is up from 510,000 acres in 2010, or an increase of 77,000 acres.  With our forests dying a rapid death, is it logical to clear-cut healthy trees and further destroy what habitat remains?  Should we not seek to protect those remaining forests?  The clear cutting will have to be done in the summer time, during beetle flight.  It is proven fact that cutting trees during this period will attract higher numbers of beetles into an area.  The trees that remain will be inundated with beetles and more than likely will die.

The clean, pure waters of Killpecker Creek.

The proposed power line pathway will cross several riparian and wetlands areas in route to the tower location.

“Water quality characteristics most affected by timber harvesting are: (1) sediment (2) dissolved nutrients . . . and (3) water temperature.” Undisturbed forests are generally low in dissolved or suspended matter (except during floods); sediment loads and dissolved nutrients generally increase with the level of disturbance to the forest. Timber harvesting adjacent to stream channels increases sediment flows into streams, and can affect the temperature of the stream, because it removes the streamside vegetation that buffers the stream. (Backiel and Gorte, Report to Congress on Clearcutting)

Obviously, the clear-cutting of trees along the existing roadways will also lead to erosion which will also eventually find its way into the streams.  While the North Lone Pine and Killpecker Creek are 2 of the major streams that will be affected, there are many smaller streams that are in harm’s way from this project.

Next time – We’ll take a look at the impact of the project on the wildlife of the area.

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