COLORADO SPRINGS – New fire mitigation technology is at work above the North Catamount Reservoir on the North Slope of Pikes Peak. “We are getting rid of a lot of infected trees,” said Eric Howell, forestry program manager for Colorado Springs Utilities. The spruce budworm has been really bad here. The work is a Colorado Spring Utilities project to better protect the reservoir’s water supply by removing dead and compromised trees from the surrounding forest.
Cutting vegetation with heavy equipment is nothing new.
Different from this project is a new type of machine in the area called a cut-to-length harvester contracted through an Oregon forestry company. “It’s very nimble, very flexible,” said Miller Timber Services, Forester and vice president, Matthew Mattioda.
With an operator in a closed cab, the machine moves through the forest on eight wide wheels. It has a large arm with multiple joints and pivot points to move a trimmer head to remove problem trees while leaving healthier trees almost intact.
The ability to work on steep slopes is a major advantage for mountainside mitigation work. “With technological advancements, we can operate the machine on slopes of up to 85% or 90%. To do our work safely and efficiently, ”said Mattioda. In previous years, working on a 30% grade was considered steep for most machines, with work required for the steeper grades.
The cutting head is strong, fast and multifunctional. In seconds, it cuts, turns the tree on its side, then powers the gears and knives to turn the tree into a wood-ready log. “Pull the tree through, remove the branches, at the same time it reads the length and diameter of the tree,” Mattioda said. Computerized sensors cut the logs all to the same length.
Another piece of heavy forest-friendly equipment follows. He lifts and stacks logs rather than dragging them across the forest floor.
A machine with multiple mechanisms, which makes it an intelligent, efficient and agile computer. He performs heavy work in order to minimize damage to the forest. “At the end of the day, the stand that we leave behind is more important than the stand that awaits us on the road. So it’s about making sure that we have protected the forest,” said Mattioda.