Another gift from miners: our trees | SummitDaily.com
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Another gift from miners: our trees

Editorial

Summit County’s mining legacy is omnipresent, even if the only thing we mine these days is the tourism industry.But it’s not just the old flumes, cabins, mine dumps, dredge rock and pollution that remind us of the county’s past that began with the 1860 gold rush.Our forests, an environmental disaster in their own right, are part of the legacy.Old photos show the mountainsides denuded of timber taken by the miners.We are left with what grew back, a monogrowth, similar-aged stand of lodgepole pines, many of them sick from age, drought, pine beetle and overgrowth.Usually, fire or other natural disturbances such as avalanches or landslides are Mother Nature’s way to clear out trees for new growth. This has not happened in Summit County.Now comes the pine beetle to thin the trees, which some compare to a slow fire. The trouble for modern-day Summit County is that the pine beetle kill will add more potential fuel for a real fire.For all of these reasons, local firefighters, the Sheriff’s Office and the Dillon Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service are planning for the worst.We salute them for their diligence and training. Still, for all of their efforts, the worst could still happen in a county where development reaches deep into the woods.Those of us in the urban interface should take heed and create defensible spaces around our homes. Another thing we tree huggers have to consider is the idea of forest thinning. We cannot hug every tree in a forest that is hardly virgin. Mankind disturbed the forest, mankind disturbed natural fire patterns and now mankind has to go in and manage the problem.


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