Since the Buffalo Municipal Watershed Project (BMW) implementation, large-scale Aspen stand treatment has starkly contrasted previous practices. Aspen may not persist unless periodically disturbed or destroyed by an event that rejuvenates the groves. The disturbance is necessary to provide for continued sprouting and the development of an uneven-aged structure of trees, including sprouts, saplings, and mature trees, and control other, potentially aspen-replacing species. Low-intensity fire has historically provided that action.
Observed this summer in the Clear/Crazy Woman basin on the Powder River Ranger District was downing and lopping all the conifers in a stand and leaving all the tree, trunk, branch, and needles attached to the felled tree. Some of the worst were in areas of considerable fuel reduction and thinning treatments to reduce fuel load. This is especially concerning in areas adjacent to summer home cabins in the Middle Fork Clear Creek drainage. The pine and spruce cutting created berms of fuel in the Aspen stand that will be in place for decades. Why are the Bighorn NF and the State of Wyoming swathing out Lodge Pole pine and turning our Aspen stands into fuel depots?
Managing Aspen involves taking advantage of the species' characteristics to provide for its continuation. It can be managed for several values at once. While enhancing one value, such as retaining the aspen community, other values, such as habitat, forage, and esthetics, will also benefit. The Aspen stands of Hay Gulch, east of the Cull Watt Park road (FSR366) and Willow Creek* surrounded by Ponderosa pine, bear the scars of fires past. Leaving unlimbed pine or spruce trees in the stands does nothing to replicate the Aspen stand's survival conditions.
The community's questions to the Bighorn NF are: Has an area inventory been completed to determine the forest's condition, including the aspen communities? Have the Aspen groves been identified that may benefit from management? The inventory is completed before treating the Aspen stands to document Aspen's density and age classes and establish monitoring locations for evaluating the effectiveness of treatments. Are there monitoring plans for the treatments we are seeing in the Powder Ranger District? Or does the State of Wyoming, as the contracting officer, direct it to the most minimalist State Standards? The Council for the Bighorn Range has not found in our research that felling all conifers and leaving debris in the Aspen stands is a recommended treatment method. Where is that in the Forest Service Standards and Guidelines?
• [R. 84N-T.50N. S6] Johnson County WY, Bighorn NF - 44 19'43.86N 106 52'4.60W