Letter to the Editor: The US Forest Service should be called the Forest Disservice

Howard Brown

I went to a Forest Service “public meeting” on “forest thinning” last week. There was no speaker, just one staff person; no effort to hear from the public. The project had been approved more than a year ago, stipulating that they would do no environmental assessment and the work was to start the next day. 

“Thinning lodgepole” is usually a U.S. Forest Disservice euphemism for clear-cutting. Because lodgepoles have such minimal root systems, selective cutting doesn’t make sense since the remaining trees just blow over. But this project is to thin younger lodgepoles, the result of misguided clear-cutting 30 years ago, rather than the naturally thinning, beetle-impacted, older lodgepoles that they usually target.

The staffer and I chatted/argued mostly about my contention that it is when mature lodgepole start to naturally thin out from beetle-kill that conditions are right for shade-tolerant spruce and fir — the beautiful, natural, stable, climax vegetation for Summit County — to reestablish and gradually take over, as, unlike sun-loving lodgepole, their seedlings can sprout in their shade. 

The staffer said that she fully agreed with me about spruce and fir coming back in — but only if there were nearby “seed sources,” as if this was unusual and justified thinning rather than allowing the natural succession process to spruce and fir.

I hike a lot and notice young trees and what kind of forest they grow in and am quite confident that just as lodgepole can get to any clear-cut space, spruce and fir can get to any naturally thinning lodgepole stand.

I challenge any Disservice employee or anyone who cares about our forests to take me out on a trail through a mix of standing live and dead lodgepoles where they think that we don’t see spruce and fir.

Contact me at

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