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‘It’s like planting a garden in your backyard,’ Monarch Mountain gets 1,400 new tree saplings

MONARCH MOUNTAIN, Colo. (KRDO) -- After years of cutting down dead trees to avoid a heightened risk of wildfires, Monarch Mountain is bringing new life to the Monarch pass - 1,400 to be exact.

The U.S. Forest Service gave the 1,400 tree saplings to the mountain as part of its efforts to revive the forests after spruce beetles came through and devastated the Monarch Pass.

Addressing the carnage in the forest, Mountain Operations at Monarch has worked to clear out the dead trees. However, that process was devastating in its own way.

"It can be tough," said Scott Pressly, VP of Mountain Operations for Monarch Mountain. "You know, we all love the forest up here, we try to be good stewards of the mountain. Even by removing trees, we're taking care of the forest, but sometimes it just feels a little bit different."

When Pressly started working at Monarch over 20 years ago, he saw a completely different mountain.

"It was dense, green, healthy forests," said Pressly. "All of our tree islands looked nothing like they do now."

Healthy trees stand tall as dead trees cover the forest ground of Monarch Mountain on Aug. 2.

Over time, the impacts of the spruce beetles became more evident, changing the dense, green landscape into areas with scattered samplings of trees.

"We started to see [the trees] gray. We started to see them drop their needles, and then it just became more and more widespread year after year," said Pressly.

The Monarch Pass Vegetation Management Project designated 2,400 acres of land throughout the pass that need to be cleared by mountain operations to avoid the risk of wildfire. Since 2018, the mountain has cleared 225 acres.

But as Pressly and the Mountain staff look toward a long future of tree removal, the opportunity to plant new life provides a glimmer of hope.

"Our crew really looks forward to this," said Pressly. "To have the opportunity to actually put some green trees in the ground, you know, it's like planting a garden in your backyard. It just feels good."

Around 20 volunteers joined 25 mountain staff to plant the saplings in various areas throughout the mountain.

“Everybody cares about Monarch in Salida. Everyone loves it, and everyone wants to see it succeed," said Allie Stevens, a Marketing Manager at Monarch Mountain. "So it was great to bring people up. We weren't sure how many people would show up, but I think we got about 15 or 20 volunteers show up, which was awesome.”

To plant the trees, the workers would dig a small hole, place the tree sapling in the opening, close the soil around the plant, pour water, and then place a small log near it for shade.

Lucy Downing plants a tree on Monarch Mountain on Aug. 2.

“It'll be nice to know that even though we have a bunch of dead trees here, it’s not the end for this area,” said Stevens.

Article Topic Follows: News
Monarch Mountain
Monarch Pass
Tree planting
Tree saplings
U.S. Forest Service

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Annabelle Childers

Annabelle is a reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about her here.


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