Woulda, coulda, shoulda and way too late at that
I was waiting for some coffee the other day when I heard two visitors debating the minutiae of forest management in Summit County. The upshot was that “they” (meaning us locals, I am guessing) need to head into the woods at this very moment with a bunch of chainsaws and fell “all those brown trees.””I don’t know why nobody’s thought of that,” one of the women said.If we want to do anything about Colorado’s forests turning from green to dead, my best guess, short of arming these gals with some Poulans and sending them into the backcountry, is that we need to turn the clock back 15 years and douse every living thing hereabouts with DDT.
We would then wrap those living things in plastic to prevent the more resilient pine beetles from taking flight. We would mow down the very worst of the trees and haul the debris to a location deep inside a mountain in Nevada. It would cost taxpayers billions of dollars, but it would prevent one of the dumbest conversations of 2006 from taking place.Truth is, even if we’d jumped all over the beetles a decade or more ago, we would have been dealing with a bunch of very old lodgepoles. Meaning that with or without the beetles, they sooner than later would turn gray and dead and unacceptable, sort of like what happens to people. Now, one way or the other, the forests will regenerate – but not without a lot of really ugly photographs of the High Country going back to Tuscaloosa and Oconomowoc in the meantime.And how ugly is it getting out there? Drive up Highway 9 to Ute Pass and into Grand County. I’ve heard that up to 90 percent of the lodgepoles up there are pretty much shot. The place looks blasted; it’s one of those cases where the occasional clearcut looks a whole lot better than the trees.And then you’ve got the whole beetle shebang over in Vail. Our neighbors in Plastic Bavaria pioneered and perfected the grand-mal snit decades ago (just for fun, take a public-art proposal to Vail’s town council and see if the majority of the town does not show up with grenade launchers and tactical nukes), and now that their hillsides that straddle I-70 are rapidly turning the color of poo, folks are edgy.
As a strong believer in the forces of nature over the intent of mankind, I’ve seen only a handful of beetle fights that appeared to be worth their time. My favorite was engineered by retired Gen. Jack Singlaub, who led our troops in Korea and who had been centrally involved in just about every military controversy since World War II, as well as the World Anti-Communist League. Pissed off about the beetles that were ravaging Grand County at the time, Singlaub declared his Winter Park neighborhood a war zone and enlisted his neighbors into service, making it clear that the only good pine beetle was one who had been sacrificed to the enemy. He issued an unwavering plan of attack, and public officials basically dropped and gave him 20 when he entered a room. I had coffee with him a couple times and just plain liked the guy, even though each of us by and large existed to abhor the other’s politics – beetles aside.Today I look at the hillsides around Summit and figure the invasion has taken over. I can’t say we’ve got any wiggle room here.
A year or two after we had coffee, Jack would be implicated in the Iran-Contra hooey. I still liked the guy, though, and admire him to this day. A common enemy has ways of doing that.Tara Flanagan writes a Wednesday column. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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