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New technology improves forest health, decreases wildfire risk on Pikes Peak’s north slope

TELLER COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Removing dead or dying trees from steep mountain slopes can be a time-consuming and dangerous job, but new technology is making the process easier and safer on the north slope of Pikes Peak.

Colorado Springs Utilities has hired an Oregon company to use two pieces of state-of-the art machinery that will remove trees from 35 acres above North Catamount Reservoir.

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The company, Miller Timber Services, is using computerized technology that was created in Finland and has been commonly used in Europe for more than a decade but is just starting to catch on in the U.S.

Miller uses a large truck's mechanical arm to efficiently, safely and quickly cut down trees, and remove limbs and branches all in one motion. The machine works on slopes that can be challenging or impossible for other harvesting equipment.

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A second truck's mechanical arm picks up the trees and takes them to a roadside location where they can be easily transported out of the area.

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The cutting machine also can work in more dense forests, allowing greater access for forestry projects, and reduces erosion because of the low impact it has to the ground.

It's technology that's considered an improvement over mastication -- a more traditional process of breaking trees up into small pieces that are left on the ground -- while also thinning out forests to make them healthier and removing potential wildfire fuels.

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Much of the raw timber will be used by a Pueblo mill and turned into wooden pallets; some will be donated as firewood to a nonprofit group; and the remaining waste will eventually be burned under a controlled setting.

The north slope project is expected to take around two weeks, half the time required for mastication.

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Most of the trees removed are Douglas fir that have been infested by spruce budworms.

Teller County is the second location in Colorado to use this technology, following a similar project in Monarch Pass.

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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