Forest Health Task Force Talks sustainability at roundtable |

Forest Health Task Force Talks sustainability at roundtable

Paige Blankenbuehler
summit daily news

Among climate change concerns and efficient forest health management, members of Forest Health Task Force focused the discussion of the Nov. 15 meeting around developing sustainable markets for beetle affected timber.

Staff of the U.S. Forest Service, representatives from the timber industry, political advisors and environmentalists weighed the effects of government regulations on efficient forest management.

“We need to develop markets for this dead timber, the goods are there,” said Cary Green, U.S. Forest Service timber management assistant for the White River National Forest eastern zone. “Stewardship grants from the U.S. Forest Service can’t fund everything we need to do – there has to be a market to generate funding for this type of management.”

The gridlock between forest health management and the lack funding available from governmental entities, are turning environmentalists and forest health activists to the timber industry to support clearing of bark beetle affected timber in the county.

“We need to be more aggressive – this is a national problem that has a solution if there is a long-term supply and demand to support it,” said Jill Ozarski, an advisor for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

Ozarski explained the growing need Summit County residents have to minimize hazardous trees on their properties presents an opportunity for the timber industry to obtain the supply inexpensively.

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“This supply, if determined to be a long-term source, would serve both parties,” Ozarski said. “The homeowner could have the arduous work done for free or inexpensively and the logging industry could obtain supply by offering removal services.”

In the wake of the worst wildfire season in more a decade, Colorado residents removing fuels near their homes have a lower risk of losing their homes in the event of a fire, according to Ozarski.

Members of the task force said inefficiencies may be caused by the ignorance of the national public in realizing the true cost of forest health management.

“By mid-century, the world’s population is going to be around nine billion people and the rest of the world will be looking at the U.S. as the bread basket of the world,” said Lyle Laverty, former director of Colorado State Parks. “We need to be more aggressive and take a hard look at the value of our water resources and forest health.”

Brad Piehl, a member of the Bark Beetle Cooperative talked about the changing aesthetic of the Summit forests in contributing to misconceptions by the public on land management.

“It has been so interesting to see our burned forest and 45-degree slopes without plants – it’s fascinating and frightening,” Piehl said. “But we need to get used to the idea that even though it may not be nice to look at, it’s not a bad thing.”

The Forest Health Task Force is a collaborative program that promotes forest health in Summit County focusing primarily on the current mountain pine beetle epidemic, forest ecology and economics, recreation and right sizing the timber industry.

“We don’t want to look back 40 years down the road and say why didn’t we take care of our forests better,”

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