demonstration forest sign

The Demonstration Forest was located on the eastern portion of the 'Old Fort'.

The demonstration forest was created as part of the American Tree Farm system.  This program was sponsored by the American Forest Foundation and the forest industry in order to promote and recognize good forest management on private land and lands associated with schools and universities.

Photo courtesy of Beth LaShell

The self-guided tour of the Old Fort Lewis Demonstration Forest is no longer available but the sign is still found on the East side of State Hwy 140.

tree eaten by beaver

This undated photo shows the work of a busy beaver in the demonstration forest

Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies

Demonstration Forest Research Plots

In the summer of 1981 five experimental plots were established by the Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station to obtain information on pine regeneration under the shelter wood silvicultural system.

  • Each plot was divided into two one-acre subplots
    • 15 trees per acre were left on one subplot and 30 trees per acre were left on the other.
  • Three treatments were applied to each subplot
  • One-third was burned, 1/3 was mechanically scarified with a bulldozer and disc and 1/3 was left untreated.
  • Seed traps were placed to determine the quantity of seed falling on the area
  • Periodic measurements were taken to determine seedling establishment under the various treatment methods and stocking rates.

Demonstration Forest Prescribed Burns

All burns are done under controlled conditions in which the fire weather and behavior is carefully monitored.

The purposes for burning are:

  • Prepare the site for natural regeneration of pine by killing back the oak and exposing mineral soil which seeds need to take root in
  • Reduce the wildfire hazard by eliminating the accumulated fuels
  • Improve the grazing and wildlife habitat by rejuvenating the grasses and producing young oak sprouts for deer feed
  • Improve aesthetics

Years of Prescribed Burns

  • 1989- Plot was harvested in 1983, firewood and thinning done in 1985-86 and broadcast burned in 1989.
  • 1991-150-acre prescribed burn west of old railroad grade. A small salvage sale was conducted on a portion of the prescribed burn area that experienced excessive heat scorch.

Old Fort Lewis Forestry Time-Line

Compiled by Kent Grant, Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) Forester

1880- Fort Lewis military post established. Assume some timber was cut to clear land for building construction, milling lumber, firewood for cooking and heating, etc.

Early 1900s - Initial commercial timber harvesting? One reference states area was first significantly cut in the 1880s.

1918 - 1921 - Several varieties of forest trees planted for high altitude adaptability study.

1940s - More timber harvesting!

1966 - Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) opens district office in Durango. Dick Berkholz begins his 26-years as Durango District Forester.

1968 - Dick Berkholz does initial examination of property and prepares report for CSFS files.

1969 - First CSFS sawlog sale on property. Sale was originally to encompass 157 acres and 1,157 MBF of narrow leaf cottonwood along the La Plata River, but ended up to be only 40 acres and 149.2 MBF.

1971 - Proposal by Ray Colyer, private forester from Mancos, to use property as an experimental forest. Proposal was supported by Dick Berkholz, but was not pursued by CSU College of Forestry due to distance from Fort Collins and financial constraints.

1974 - Cottonwood sale to John Rogers of Cortez. Sale was not cut due to poor market conditions for cottonwood and stumpage price was refunded by State Land Board.

197? - CSFS establishes an experimental Christmas tree plantation on west side of highway.

1979 - CSFS prepares a forest management plan for the property.

1980 - CSFS signs M.O.U. with USDA Forest Services Rocky Mountain Forest & Range Experiment Station in Fort Collins to establish and measure experimental pine regeneration plots.

1981 - Bark beetle outbreak increases awareness of need for forest management.

1982 - 1989 - CSFS conducts ponderosa pine sawlog sales totaling 943 acres, 2,430.5 NMF, and $60,457 gross stumpage receipts.

1983 to Present - CSFS utilizes commercial firewood sales, individual personal-use firewood permits, and service contracts to further thin pine stands and remove logging debris, producing a significant volume of POL material (products other than logs) and additional revenue.

1986 - Colorado Ute Electric Association cuts power line right-of-way through property.

1988 - 1,200-acre pine forest on the property is certified as a unit of the American Tree Farm System. The 'Tree Farm Program' of the American Forest Foundation promotes and recognizes sound forest management on private and other non-federal forest lands.

1989 - CSFS conducts 240-acre prescribed burn cast of old railroad grade.

1990 - Dick Berkholz develops forestry tour of the 'Old Fort Lewis Demonstration Forest'.

1991 - CSFS conducts 150-acre prescribed burn west of old railroad grade.

1992 - CSFS establishes ponderosa pine planting stock test plots on 1/2 acre east of old railroad grade.

1993 - CSFS conducts small salvage sale on a portion of the 1991 prescribed burn area that experienced excessive heat scorch.

1994 - CSFS reinspects property as required by the American Tree Farm System to maintain tree farm status.

1995 - CSFS plants 90 ponderosa pine and sprays invading weeds in '93 salvage sale area.

2010 - 2011 - CSFS conducts a ponderosa pine sawlog sale.