COLORADO SPRINGS — There is new fire mitigation technology at work above North Catamount Reservoir on the north slope of Pikes Peak. "We're getting rid of a lot of infected trees,” said Eric Howell, Forest Program Manger for Colorado Springs Utilities. The Spruce Bud Worm has been really bad up here.” The work is a Colorado Spring Utilities project to better protect the water supply in the reservoir by thinning out dead and compromised trees from the surrounding forest.
Cutting out vegetation with heavy equipment is not new.
Different with this project is a new to the area kind of machine called the Cut-to-Length Harvesting Machine contracted through an Oregon forestry company. “It’s very nimble, very flexible,” said Miller Timber Services, Forester and Vice President, Matthew Mattioda.
With one operator in an enclosed 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 cutting head in to remove problem trees while leaving healthier trees mostly undisturbed.
Ability to work on steep slopes is a major benefit for mitigation work on mountainsides. "With the advances in technology we can run the machine on slopes up to 85 maybe 90%. Efficiently, safely to do our work,” said Mattioda. In years past working on a 30% grade was considered steep for most machines, with manual labor required for the steeper grades.
The cutting head is strong, quick and multifunctional. In seconds, it cuts, turns the tree sideways, then feed cogs and knifes transform the tree into a lumber ready log. ”Pulls the tree through, takes the limbs off, at the same time it is reading the length and diameter of the tree,” said Mattioda. Computerized sensors cut logs all to the same length.
Another forest friendly piece of heavy equipment follows. It lifts and stacks the logs rather than dragging them across the forest floor.
One machine with multiple mechanisms making it computer smart, efficient and agile. It does heavy work with the goal of minimal damage to the forest. "Ultimately the stand we laeave behind is more important than the one that goes down the road. So it's all about making sure we've protected the forest,” said Mattioda.