On Arbor Day, Colorado still recovering from decade-old forest fire

Every year, Colorado honors Arbor Day on the third Friday of April, joining many other states that recognize Arbor Day early to take advantage of the optimal planting season.

Part of Colorado’s scenic beauty and natural resources stem from the Pike and San Isabel National Forests that span three million acres in central and southeast Colorado. More than 60 percent of the water used by Denver-area residents originates in the forest as rain or snowmelt.

When the Hayman Fire – the largest fire in Colorado’s history – burned approximately 137,000 acres in 2002, moderate and high intensity burn areas suffered 100 percent tree loss, along with the loss of future seed sources for natural regeneration.

Thanks to the help of Arbor Day Foundation partners, 140,000 ponderosa pine and Douglasfir trees were recently planted.  Wildlife is beginning to return to the area and newly planted trees are now covering a landscape once barren and charred. (Ed. Note: Two Arbor Day Foundation staff members were at Pike National Forest – pictured below – last week, alongside employees of Enterprise, a critical supporter in replanting national forests. Coverage of the activity is available here and here).

The State of Colorado honors Arbor Day with tree plantings and festivals. Colorado also involves fifth graders in recognizing Arbor Day by holding a yearly, statewide, Arbor Day Poster Contest. All Colorado communities have the opportunity to participate and tailor the contest to involve more students if necessary (grades K-6th). Typically, a winning poster is chosen from the local level to compete at the overall State level. This year’s Arbor Day poster theme for Colorado is “Celebrate Trees in Our Community.” You can check out Colorado’s winning poster from last year here.

The State of Colorado is currently home to 93 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Colorado is Denver, population 598,007; the smallest is Campo, population 154.

Photo credit: Coe Roberts

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