Summit Daily letters: Opposition to Ophir clear-cutting is misguided (column)
July 31, 2018
Opposition to Ophir clearcutting is misguided
I am left perplexed by Harold Brown's letter regarding clearcutting along the Peaks Trail. I get it … he loves to recreate there. But he goes on to state, "The areas to be clearcut are miles from any development, so their destruction can play no role in fire hazard reduction." That statement alone is astounding. Please tell that to my friends in Ventura, California who, on December 7, 2017 were advised of a fire (the Thomas Fire) that started in Santa Paula, 12 miles away, at about 6:30 pm. Not long after midnight over 500 homes were destroyed in Ventura. The Thomas Fire, at one point, consumed one acre a second! Think about the immensity of that. In a matter of a very few hours, that fire traveled 12 miles, sometimes with spot fires popping up unimaginable distances away.
Over my years in southern California, I had many friends who were wiped out by forest fires. More recently, my and my neighbor's homes were threatened by the Buffalo Mountain Fire. I was evacuated for almost three days. There are two reasons our homes were spared. First, by the forward planning and heroic efforts of many fire fighters, the US Forest Service, pilots, law enforcement, and other first responders. And second, because the US Forest Service had the foresight to clearcut around our developments 10 years ago.
I sincerely hope that Mr. Brown did not live up in Wildernest, have to evacuate, and wonder if his home would be standing when he returned.
Forests regenerate. Already behind us, since the clearcutting, we have thousands of aspens, some spruce and other trees that had been crowded out by the monoculture of lodge pole pines. Take a drive over Swan Mountain Road to see regeneration. Or take a walk (or bike) on the Sunrise Trail between Salt Lick and the Giberson Ranch area. I understand Mr. Brown loving the Peaks Trail, as do a lot of county residents. But the beauty of Summit County is that there are a lot of places to enjoy the outdoors.
As for me, I am happy that the USFS continues to be proactive. In two years we have had two major fires. The next one is only a matter of time. It could threaten my home again, or that of Mr. Brown. I hope it is neither.
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Memories from a former lookout
Thanks for running the Associated Press article on lookout towers. It brought back memories.
After graduating from high school, guys from Minneapolis and St. Paul went to work for Potlatch Lumber (Wayerhauser) in the Clearwater Forest in Central Idaho. We were hired to swing an axe: to cut and pile the branches of newly-felled pines.
Somehow I got a job way back in the woods at Camp W with old lumberjacks (the young men had gone to war). My job was skidding logs with a D-4 Cat with a swamper, a rigger and a choke setter. What fun for a kid of 18 working in the woods of the beautiful hills of Idaho. (The juke box in the honky town of Pierce, where we'd go every weekend, played a tune by that name.)
But one weekend I discovered a friend from St. Paul, named Stryker, had a job at a lookout tower near where we were logging (by the way, that was before chain saws. Just like in the 1880s). So I spent the weekend with him. It was memorable because a lightning storm occurred. Lightning would hit a tree. It would blaze up. Beautiful views from that tower on stilts above the mountaintop.
Stryker would sight a bearing and call the blaze in. I guess the Forest Service would send in a smoke jumper.
One of my best buddies, a cadet in WWII, was an ex-smoke jumper out of Missoula. Her fighter plane was hit by an '88. But that's another story.
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