Fitzwilliams: White River National Forest faces difficult choices |

Fitzwilliams: White River National Forest faces difficult choices

Scott Fitzwilliams
Special to the Daily

By now, most folks in and around Breckenridge have noticed the tree cutting and slash-pile burning along Highway 9, near the Tiger Run RV park, out Tiger Run Road. Over the past several months, I have heard from many local residents; some are angry over the work we have done, others are happy with it.

I expected as much and I completely understand the responses. I admit the clear-cuts are ugly and the smoke from pile burning is an annoyance. But let me assure you that we are doing this with the community as our No. 1 consideration.

The purpose of these treatments is to create a “community protection zone,” an area where firefighters can safely conduct operations in the event of a wildfire.

The extensive expansion of residential development in Summit County (and throughout the West) has left us with difficult choices. Add to this a massive bark beetle epidemic and decades of fire suppression, and the result is not an envious situation for any of us. We are making decisions now that do have some short-term consequences that are not always desirable. But over the long haul, these are the right decisions, hard as they may be.

When we planned these projects and completed the environmental analysis, we gave careful consideration to the impacts and the eventual benefits to public safety and forest health. We asked for and received public input. We used the best science and practices that we had at our disposal, and our resource specialists provided valuable input to ensure the projects were designed to minimize effects.

I believe these projects will indeed improve public and firefighter safety and improve the long-term health of our forest.

We are all very fortunate to call the White River National Forest home. With this comes some responsibility. I have the responsibility to ensure the long-term stewardship and sustainability of our nation’s forests.

As residents you have the responsibility to be stewards, too. In some cases that means accepting short-term loss for long-term gain. The forested areas in Summit County will bounce back. They won’t be exactly the same as they once were, but they will still be available to us to rejuvenate our souls.

Gifford Pinchot, the father of our National Forest System, coined the phrase; “The Greatest Good, for the greatest number, over the long term.” When I am faced with difficult decisions, I anchor myself to these words. The tree removal and pile burning in Summit County are two examples of how Pinchot’s philosophy applies to national forest management today.

Scott Fitzwilliams is the forest supervisor of the White River National Forest.

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