More U.S. Forest Service obfuscation (letter)
Lack of transparency in government? Blind persistence in ill-conceived plans? Our Dillon Ranger District is the poster child for both. On May 29 of last year, 80-plus citizens turned out on a rainy night at a nonprofit-group Forest Health Task Force meeting to express their anger at the atrocity of clear-cutting destruction of Gold Hill and the Colorado Trail. Six Forest Service officials droned on forever with their standard stuff to try to limit discussion time, but the citizens did manage to get some words—and telling photos—in. Never once did the “Forest Disservice” officials mention that new clear-cutting projects near the main trails in the Iron Springs area would begin the next day. Nor did they mention three additional clear-cuts that were subsequently disclosed June 10 as having already been initiated.
Ten months later on Wednesday, March 18, the Forest Health Task Force held another meeting billed as “what’s planned for the Dillon Ranger District for 2015 and beyond.” This time there were three district officials (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). Our new district ranger talked about the US Forest Service’s general and personnel goals of the at the national, regional, forest and interplanetary levels. The deputy district ranger never said a word. In response to a specific question about a homeowners’ association having been told just seven acres of Ophir project would be cut this year, the timber sales contract manager said that 277 acres were included in the “fourth contract.” He said nothing about the fact that that contract had already been or would be signed that same day. Nor did the duplicitous new ranger who greeted me warmly at the meeting and said he still planned to ski the Peaks Trail with me and see my case for not destroying it.
But indeed that “fourth contract,” that the timber sales manager obtusely referred to and the district ranger signed that same day would destroy the beloved Peaks Trail. The immensely popular Breckenridge-to-Frisco Peaks Trail is the one that citizens have been particularly concerned about saving from needless destruction. With relatively few dead trees in its area and miles from any development, the Peaks Trail’s destruction could be of no possible fire-hazard reduction value, so is utterly senseless. After further prodding, the timber sales manager also gave acreage numbers and vague times for the other three Ophir contracts, including destruction of what’s left of the Gold Hill/Colorado Trail, though again, not by name.
I naively hoped that a new district ranger might have made a difference, but evidently putting a new head on the beast does not change the beast. I also might have hoped that a set of facts made clear by two years of vocal outrage from irate citizens would induce the agency to pause to reconsider plans drafted five or more years ago: (1) The dead trees pose no significant increase in fire-hazard and indeed relatively few trees actually died. (2) Leaving the mix of live and dead trees standing encourages succession to the natural and more desirable spruce-fir forest, but clear-cutting sets the process back 80-140 years. (3) Artificially perpetuating lodgepole monoculture produces no benefit, only scrawny trees prone to wind-blow, crown fire and beetle infestation. I might have hoped, but hope apparently springs infernal when it comes to the Forest Disservice and our local ranger district.
And daddy won’t you take me back to Summitburg County
Up by the Blue River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Uncle Sam’s Forest Disservice has hauled it away
Then the contractors came with the world’s largest saws
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they stole all our trees till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.
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