Hallman and Piehl: When it comes to forestry, size matters | SummitDaily.com

Hallman and Piehl: When it comes to forestry, size matters

Howard Hallman and Brad Piehl
Special to the Daily

A little bit of tree cutting is always appreciated. A modest amount of logging is generally OK. Large disruptions are not always well received.

There’s been considerable logging in Summit County over the last couple of years, a lot more than we are accustomed to. This leads to protest in some quarters and applause in others. How many people are for or against more logging is anybody’s guess.

For those who worry about too much logging, the biggest concerns seem to be that clear-cuts are unsightly and disruptive to recreation and ecology, not proven to mitigate wildfire hazard and result in the re-creation of an unhealthy lodgepole monoculture forest. Those in favor generally believe that clear-cuts around towns and resorts will reduce wildfire danger and create a more healthy forest.

Both sides of this debate sometimes seem to be under the illusion that after logging the forest will grow back quickly in a few years.

Some worry the new forest will be overgrown with dog-hair stands of lodgepole. Others envision a species-diverse, resilient forest springing to life like a garden. While logged areas generally turn green within a year or so, it is usually four to five years before significant regeneration begins, and then it is likely to be in scattered locations. It takes many decades before anything resembling a mature forest returns. This is one of the reasons we (citizens, stakeholders and foresters) need to be wise about where we cut trees, how many trees we cut and why. Redos are not a good forestry option.

Nobody we know has a problem with cutting dead trees along trails, or around campgrounds to prevent falling trees from injuring or killing recreationalists. We do the same thing in our own backyards. A tree dies, we cut it down. Most people are OK with creating defensible space to protect against wildfire, even if that means cutting dead and some live trees around our neighborhoods. Where the rub comes in is when large acreages are clear-cut in one location. We would not generally cut down all the trees in our backyard if many of them were still alive and healthy. And to many people it doesn’t seem right or natural to cut the whole forest down to save it.

Here’s our personal perspective. One reasonable fix to debates over logging may be to reduce the cumulative size of clear-cuts, reconfigure treatment locations, explore alternative treatment options and, where possible, apply more passive management approaches (monitor forest conditions and conduct strategic treatments on a limited basis).

Certainly our community-wide forest vision needs to be on a large landscape scale, but perhaps implementation could be in smaller pieces. Size matters.

The Summit County Forest Health Task Force is hosting a public forum this Thursday evening, 6–8 p.m., at the Summit County Community and Senior Center, County Commons, 83 Nancy’s Place, County Road 1014, in Frisco.

We will be discussing the advantages (and disadvantages) of active and passive forest management approaches. We have a distinguished panel that includes Scott Fitzwilliams, White River National Forest Supervisor; Mike Lester, director of the Colorado State Forest Service; Cary Green, U.S. Forest Service forester; Chuck Rhoades, U.S. Forest Service biogeochemist; Kristen Pelz, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute; and Brad Piehl, Forest Health Task Force.

If you care about current conditions and future prospects for our local forests, you will want to attend this meeting. There will be ample time for public questions and discussion. Please come join us.

Howard Hallman and Brad Piehl are members of the Forest Health Task Force.

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