Paige Blankenbuehler
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December 25, 2012
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Summit County: Christmas tree trepidation nothing new

It's the day after Christmas and that shaggy, greenish-brown thing in the corner is no longer the epicenter of holiday cheer, but rather a problem to be solved: What the heck do we do with this dry old tree?

It's a rarely examined Christmas tradition, but tree anxiety is nothing new in Summit County.

In a Summit County Journal article from Nov. 26, 1921, an editorial writer opined about pines.

"The city of Denver requires annually some 40,000 Christmas trees; the state of Colorado probably 150,000, and in the whole United States some fifteen to twenty million young trees are cut each year at yuletide," the editorialist writes. "Is it any wonder, then, that the promiscuous cutting of young forests of the country is a source of alarm to many conservative citizens, not only in Denver, but throughout the state of Colorado and the United States?"

Cary Green, U.S. Forest Service timber management assistant for the White River National Forest, said the tone of the Journal writer's article prefigures the ideas behind modern forest management.

"There are a lot of difficult decisions to be made when it comes to forest health management and some people aren't aware of the right way to go," Green said. "There's a misconception with tree-thinning being a bad thing, but often it's necessary in managing forests."

If trees are not thinned in overgrown areas, risks like so much kindling pile up.

"Overgrowth causes increased fire danger and it inhibits trees from having enough nutrients to grow in a healthy manner," Green said.

The 1921 Journal article encourages families seeking the perfect Christmas tree to focus their tree-cutting to areas with youth and density on their side.

"If our young stands are allowed to grow to maturity in dense clusters or groups, the trees become stunted with slow growth and do not attain their maximum size," the Journal writer said.

Green said the writer is spot-on in this assessment.

"For forests to grow in a healthy way, trees should be given enough space to mature," Green said. "The writer of this article was giving good advice in creating a forest that could sustain itself."

This year, Forest Service officials allowed tree cutting in most areas on the White River National Forest, with some exceptions: wilderness areas, commercial timber sites, recreation and ski areas, administrative areas and Glenwood Canyon.

Trees could not be cut within 100 feet of any road and permits for tree cutting were required.

Green said the general public can promote forest health next holiday season by closely following Christmas tree cutting regulations.

"It's not always the old, established tree that makes the best Christmas tree, sometimes it's the smaller one, with more character," Green said.

Character? Think "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

"Stunted and suppressed trees oftentimes make just as good Christmas trees as do the more thrifty growing ones," the Journal author wrote.

Simone Belz, director of the Frisco Historic Park and Museum, said that Summit County has historically been at the forefront of forest management because of the indigenous problems it has faced, from the bark beetle epidemic to wildfires.

"Summit County has always been one of the epicenters in the state in need of active forest health management," Belz said. "There have always been different problems, but it has always boiled down to a need for someone keeping the future in mind."

Belz said the 1921 Journal editorial provides historical perspective on the value of looking ahead toward effective management of the national forest.

"Each owner of private forest lands should feel obligated to the future of the nation and to himself to cut his trees wisely and conservatively," the article argues. "Unfortunately this is not the case."


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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 25, 2012 11:10PM Published Dec 25, 2012 11:09PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.