Letter to the editor: Forest management, old-growth forests and carbon sequestration
We in Summit County pride ourselves on our love of nature and ecological awareness, but I think we are really failing both. We have started to develop a carbon sequestration plan that must include forests. Recent articles claim that two-thirds of our carbon dioxide footprint could be offset by additional trees. Old-growth forests sequester far more carbon than new forests or clear-cuts, but the U.S. Forest Service doesn’t even have maps or programs for old-growth forests. Yet the enormous stumps in much of our forests show they once existed.
Clear-cuts or aspen growth are needed for fire protection within 300 to 600 feet of buildings, but projects a half-mile from buildings like the Ophir Mountain project have no impact on our fire safety despite the unsupported fear mongering that is often heard. The recent Buffalo Mountain Fire helped demonstrate that.
I have been on several hikes through clear-cut areas and heard forest managers point out their beauty, but we could live on the great plains for that. After long discussions, I found that even the managers don’t really like extensive clear-cuts. A clear-cut typically leads to repeated and often expensive interventions by the Forest Service to combat noxious weeds, to encourage revegetation, to thin dense stands, and then to harvest trees because they are all the same age and lack diversity.
Let’s move to protecting and developing our old-growth forests that maximize biodiversity and natural beauty as well as carbon sequestration. Restricting clear-cutting to fire buffer adjacent to development makes environmental and economic sense and avoids the endless cycle of forest management projects that clear-cuts generate.
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