Ward: Preventing clear cutting has been a 30-year mistake
July 21, 2014
Preventing clear-cutting has been a 30-year mistake
Re: Howard Brown's column "The clear-cutting of Gold Hill was a 100-year mistake
Living in the wildland-urban interface has raised the consciousness of this transplanted East Coast "tree hugger" turned timber-industry and public-land-manager advocate. When the Hayman fire burned ferociously out our back door over 10 years ago, taking out almost 140,000 acres (Colorado's largest on record) and obliterating 133 homes, it was a wake-up call that hasn't stopped ringing in my ears.
This "black eye" not only destroyed beautiful backcountry campsites and trails, it created massive erosion, deadly flooding and millions of dollars of damage to our metro-area water supply.
Years of public opposition and lack of understanding of the importance of actively managing our forests had created the ideal circumstances for this catastrophic fire. The "spotted owl wars" have left an ironic legacy. It turns out the barred owl was much more of a detriment to the mythic spotted owl than any forest products interest effort.
So the knee-jerk reaction to the Gold Hill treatment and Mr. Brown's exhortation to go against the well documented and laid-out plans of the U.S. Forest Service, I believe, is ill guided. He says, "Our elected officials have the power to realize and correct mistakes. Tell them to 'draw the line in the woods' now, at Gold Hill." As if our elected officials have some superior understanding of forest ecology.
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He goes on to say, "By persevering with a hastily adopted, ill-advised plan, bureaucrats and politicians are robbing everyone who hikes, mountain bikes, cross-country skis, snowshoes, appreciates natural beauty or benefits from Summit County's recreation- and beauty-based economy." So those very land managers and elected officials are out to purposefully destroy the many benefits they moved to Summit County for. Come on, do you really believe that?
"Let's remember Waldo Canyon, Yarnell and Hayman" should be the rallying cry, and understand that the professionals charged with managing our forests need the social license that comes with a greater understanding of the complexity of our forest ecosystems and the trade-offs that must occur if we are to continue to live the lives so many of us have yearned for and to make decisions that will benefit future generations at our expense.
We should designate Gold Hill as a "National Future Forest" destined to be a healthier and safer forest for those future generations to enjoy, even if we must "endure" the implications of short-term active-management treatments deemed necessary by those educated to do just that.
Editor's note: Bruce Ward served as president of the American Hiking Society; was a founder and president of the Continental Divide Trail Alliance; founder and president of Choose Outdoors, "Connecting to our public lands thru outdoor recreation"; and managing director of The Sustainable Forest Alliance.
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