You’ve probably heard it said that our current forest-fire risk is the result of suppressing fires, allowing fuel build up. You probably also remember the fear when the recent pine-bark-beetle infestation hit that all the trees would die and we would be at great risk of fire. As it turned out, here in Summit County, far fewer trees died than anticipated. And once the needles dropped from the trees that did die, the fire risk dropped dramatically, probably to less than that from live trees.
So, we still have beautiful forests. Sure, there are a lot of dead trees, but as you travel our wonderful trails, you’ll still revel in the beauty. And, wherever you do notice dead trees, you’ll also notice young trees underneath. Some are lodgepoles, but many are fir or aspen or a mix. Could it be that nature did a little thinning job on our same-age, single-species lodgepole stands? Can we now expect these stands to evolve into mixed-age, mixed-species forests far less susceptible to future insect infestations and even more beautiful?
One problem: Expecting high mortality of earlier-hit beetlekill areas, the Forest Service developed the infamous Ophir and other clear-cut plans and are currently razing our forests. Such clear-cutting will not mimic benevolent fires of the pre-suppression past; but the catastrophic, widespread fires of 140 years ago and the extensive clear-cutting of the 1930s that created our monoculture lodgepole forests. The result: regenerating monoculture, inviting disastrous future insect epidemics and fires and no forests in the meantime — a long meantime.
Take an elected official on a hike to see what we stand to lose and the way nature will take care of itself — if we let it. Come and speak out Thursday noon at the Silverthorne Library.