Falling trees are always a danger when traveling in forests. That danger is much greater now that beetle-killed trees are falling. As trees die, their root systems weaken and they can fall without warning. During the next several years, extra caution is needed when traveling in forests.
Each year, the U.S. Forest Service removes dead trees from developed campgrounds and picnic areas for public safety. In normal years about 20 to 30 dead trees are removed from each campground in the Routt County area. But this year, 1,000 dead trees were removed from the campgrounds. This gives you an idea about how dangerous the situation has become. On average, a dead lodgepole pine weighs about 500 pounds and can severely injure or even kill a person when it falls.
While efforts to safeguard developed recreation areas on the National Forests in Colorado are ongoing, there is a significant increased risk of falling trees in the general forest area. Salvage logging is removing hundreds of thousands of dead trees from the Routt National Forest and surrounding areas, however millions of dead trees will remain in the forest until they fall down or burn in a wildfire.
Following these guidelines will help recreationists avoid risks:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid dense patches of dead trees as they can fall without warning.
- Stay out of the forest when there are strong winds that could blow trees down. If you are already in the forest when the winds pick up, head to a clearing out of reach of any potential falling trees.
- Place tents and park vehicles in areas where they will not be hit if trees fall.
- When driving in remote areas of the forest, park close to a main road, rather than on a spur or one-way section. If trees fall across the road you may be trapped.
- Bring an ax or a chain saw to remove fallen trees from roads in case you become trapped.
- Do not rely on cell phones for safety as there is no coverage in many areas of the national forest.