Gilliland: Rare Summit County orchid a victim of clearcutting
A delicate and exquisite wild orchid has fallen victim to successive tree cutting in the beautiful Ten Mile Range. The fairy slipper orchid, a shy and rarely-seen resident of the pine forest floor, has succumbed to the ravages of trucks and tree cutting equipment on Gold Hill.
In decades of hiking for my books, “The Summit Hiker” and “The Vail Hiker,” I have spotted the vivid pink orchid with its spotted slipper, only a few times. Gold Hill locals, however, knew of a patch of “orchid heaven,” a football field-sized area spreading across both private land and forest service land, where the rarely-viewed flower bloomed every June in a riot of color.
Sadly, the orchid is gone. Gold Hill has been devastated by clear-cuts several times, including this year, and the orchid field went away during one of these.
Clear-cutting slashes live trees, dead trees and native bushes, while its equipment crushes sometimes-lovely vegetation on the forest floor. Since the pine beetle epidemic failed to take the expected toll along trails between Frisco and Breckenridge, the ongoing clear cuts there are seen by many as unnecessary.
If you care about the Gold Hill and Peaks trails, as well as the future of our forests, please attend the Forest Health Task Force meeting May 29 at the community center in Frisco at 110 Third Avenue from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. to voice your opinion. Also, you can contact your county commissioners to ask them to take a stand on forest clear-cutting.
Mary Ellen Gilliland
Author of “The Summit Hiker”
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