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Letters| Advocating for wilderness: Please no chain saws

Advocating for wilderness: Please no chain saws

The U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regional forester, Brian Ferebee, recently approved the use of chain saws between June 1 and Aug. 17, 2019, to clear beetle-killed trees obstructing access to the Weminuche and South San Juan wilderness areas. This requires invoking an exception to the use of mechanized devices in the wilderness. Clearly intended to bridge the ongoing tension between preserving the sanctity of wilderness and promoting responsible recreational use of wilderness, this decision affects not only the Weminuche and South San Juan Wilderness areas, but all wilderness areas throughout the country. As a Friends of Eagles Nest Wilderness board member, I am greatly concerned about this decision. I think this decision is a wake-up call for the USFS and an opportunity for wilderness volunteers and donors to step forward to help.

Rather than invoking an exception to the wilderness regulations, which may save a few person work-hours, alternatively, USFS crosscut-saw specialists and trained volunteers could band together in the foregoing wilderness and solve the problem without infringing on regulations to preserve wilderness. In 2009, following a huge blowdown in Eagles Nest Wilderness on over 700 acres involving the Gore Range and parts of the Salmon Lake trails, a small team of volunteers stepped forward with crosscut and smaller hand saws to remove several thousand trees that had obstructed hiking trails. It can be done.

Let’s preserve the solitude and sanctity of our wilderness by having professional and amateur wilderness stewards take mutual responsibility to mitigate and remedy the problem of trees obstructing hiking trails. We can do this with hand saws without invoking an exception to regulations regarding use of mechanized devices in wilderness. And let’s reserve such exceptions for real emergencies, such as disastrous wildfire mitigation or life-threatening situations.

Frank D. Gutmann

FENW Board member and USFS certified crosscut sawyer


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