Breeana Laughlin

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August 30, 2013
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Summit County taking the lead on forest health in a post-beetle world

The Forest Health Task Force recently wrapped up a homeowners wildfire series designed to show local residents how to protect themselves against the threat of a wildfire. Now, the group is bringing together partners throughout Summit County in a series of action-oriented workshops.

The task force is gathering representatives from agencies and organizations involved with land, water, timber, natural resource, energy, recreation and environmental interests in a series of monthly working meetings.

Together, they will work to coordinate activities, share information and optimize resources.

“It’s important as a Forest Health Task Force that we focus on getting things done,” said the group’s director, Howard Hallman.

Hallman and his partners have been working to promote forest health through outreach, education and community involvement for about seven years. “Since the first bark beetles were just starting to show up,” he said.

Since then, the group has organized presentations by experts in a variety of fields. While many of these efforts, including the group’s latest homeowners wildfire series, have been designed to spur the public into action, the new workshop is designed to create momentum among professionals in the field.

Summit County takes the lead on many forest-related issues, Hallman said.

“There are so many important efforts going on, but many times it’s hard to keep track of what everybody is doing,” he said.

The workshop series is designed to get everyone on the same page regarding important environmental and natural resource issues.

“We may have a forest-management plan here already, but we as stakeholders need to understand what it is and become more acquainted with it,” he said.

Hallman is inviting representatives from stakeholder groups to prepare a short report of about three minutes explaining their entities’ activities related to forests and wildfire.

The group will work to identify any practical conflicts among stakeholders, identify their priorities and strengthen their messages so they can speak with a unified voice, Hallman said. Stakeholders can then work together on projects and educational activities, he said.

Colorado State University extension agent Dan Schroder said he plans to participate in the working meetings.

“The stakeholders are many,” he said. “These meetings are great way for these people come together and have communication that leads to action.”

While many individuals are interested in forest-related issues in our area, Schroder said, it makes the most sense to work together to accomplish goals.

“Too many of us are individuals and nobody gets a heck of a lot done on their own, but by linking arms with our friends we can mobilize our resources,” he said.

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The Summit Daily Updated Aug 30, 2013 08:56PM Published Aug 30, 2013 05:14PM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.