Brown: Say no to Summit County briar patches
March 11, 2014
As you hike, bike, or ski around Summit County, you will occasionally run across patches of small trees. They are lush and green, but all the same size and very dense; and I couldn't imagine anyone liking them. Forest Service people told me that these doghair lodgepole regenerated from 1980s clearcuts of the last pine-beetle epidemic and that indeed someone does like them. It turns out snowshoe hares (read Br'er Rabbit) do well in dense doghair (read Briar Patch). And because lynx eat snowshoe hares, the Forest Service (read Br'er Fox) cannot thin doghair.
Now, under the Ophir Plan, Br'er Fox is clearcutting 1,500 acres expressly to regenerate lodgepole pine—the shallow-rooted, insect-prone trees that we have now because of extensive clearcutting in the 1930s. Many of those 1,500 acres are along some of our finest trails, including the Peaks Trail and the Colorado Trail up Gold Hill. So, instead of great trails, this is what you will get: 5-10 years of clearcut wasteland, followed by 20-30 years of briar patch, followed by skinny, still dense, monoculture lodgepole that 60-80 years from now will be big enough to interest pine-beetles again, to start the cycle over.
Plan B: Leave the forests be (untreated in Br'er Fox lingo) and dead lodgepoles will gradually be replaced by fir and by young lodgepole to become mixed-age, mixed-species, insect-resistant forest — and a joy to be in the meantime. Replant areas close to housing that have already been razed with fast-growing, fire-resistant aspen — something the Forest Service says it will not consider; Br'er Fox wants briar patch.
Say no to 1,500 acres of briar patch. Say yes to saving the trails and forests that make Summit County such a great place to live or visit.