Summit Daily letters: Forest Service article contrary to science
September 28, 2018
Forest Service article contrary to science
Re: Sept. 19 article entitled 'U.S. Forest Service talks the when, where and how of fuel breaks in Summit County'
Once again, a Summit Daily article based on Forest Service material (I can't call it information) screams ignorance of — or disregard for — local forest ecology by both organizations. Virtually every statement is either wrong or serves an unwise purpose. The same is true of the original Ophir clear-cutting plan which this disinformation seeks to justify. There is not room here to point out all the untruths, but I'd be happy to do so with anyone who wants.
Most blatant is disregard for the central concept of ecology. Ecosystems go through a succession process eventually leading to a stable climax vegetation. This article totally ignores that in Summit County's subalpine environment, climax forest is dominated by subalpine fir and Englemann spruce, places of magnificence when you can find them. Lodgepole pine — which have all kinds of problems in addition to beetle kill susceptibility — only grow after fires or clear-cutting. Forest Service 's plans to clear-cut beetle impacted lodgepole forest would set that process back 100 years or so, just as the forests start to change into far more stable and desirable spruce/fir. It boggles the mind that this article and other Forest Service initiated disinformation can talk endlessly about our forests without ever mentioning spruce-fir climax forest.
Perhaps the most egregious disinformation in the article is crediting fire breaks with "speeding up nature's work" and reducing "monoculture of lodgepole pine." In fact, clear-cutting stops nature's process just as the beetle-assisted forests are self-thinning and starting to morph from lodgepole to spruce and fir. And, as the dreadful Ophir Plan explicitly states, a primary objective of clear-cutting is to regenerate monoculture lodgepole pine forest.
Other affronts include calling clear-cutting — mowing down anything resembling a tree — "thinning" and crediting fuel breaks with having "stopped (the Buffalo Mountain Fire) in its tracks." The fuel breaks around the subdivisions clearly aided fire-fighting operations, but what stopped the fire "in its tracks" was the massive aerial bombing with water and fire retardant.
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Amongst kernels of truth, the article quotes the Deputy District Ranger as saying that they will put fuel breaks where they are easy to get to and wanted/not opposed and to bemoan that "If we don't have a fire in the next 5 years, people might not necessarily see a need for thinning (sic)." The former may help explain why they are targeting areas such as the Peaks Trail that are miles from any housing, and thus of any possible fire break value. The latter makes you wonder about how they feel about fires and their willingness to take advantage of them to pursue inexplicably motivated clear-cutting. If all the appropriate fuel breaks immediately adjacent to housing have already been made, it is time to leave nature be and to stop enabling Forest Service disinformation and senseless clear-cutting.
I believe that at least some within the Forest Service know better, but sadly, the bureaucracy is locked into justification of their pursuit of misguided clear-cutting plans and to helping feed the biomass power plant in Gypsum.
As for the Daily, reporters should be encouraged to learn a little about the subject matter they are writing about and to ask a few questions, not just pass along news releases or other information from the Forest Service or other sources without question. Such "lite" reporting enables disinformation and does its readers, and in this case, the citizens and forests of Summit County, a serious disservice.
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