Summit Daily letters: Willful forest destruction in Summit County – why?
July 26, 2018
Willful forest destruction – why?
Mature forests are wondrous places, gifts from God that take hundreds of years to grow here in the arid West. If you've been to some of Summit's pockets of old-growth spruce-fir, you know how magnificent they are. And now, with climate change and its companion droughts, heat waves and fires joining man's other forest destruction, they will certainly become scarcer rather than more extensive.
So why is the Forest Service — with the seeming blessing of our elected officials — spending our tax dollars to clear-cut huge swaths of our beloved and shrinking forests? As we speak, contractors are setting out to mow down forest between Frisco and Breckenridge along the Peaks Trail, one of our greatest recreational resources. (I particularly love it for cross-country skiing, but it is very heavily used for mountain biking, so very great for the tourist dollars. Ask any bike rental shop for suggestions, and that is likely where they'll send you.)
The areas to be clear-cut are miles from any development, so their destruction can play no role in fire hazard reduction. The skinny lodgepole pine being cut are not of lumber value, so we are paying for them to be hauled off and burned. The odious Ophir Plan (named for Ophir Mountain near Frisco), which called for this clear-cutting, was developed a decade ago in response to the impending threat of dead trees from beetle infestation. But hiking the other day through the areas to be cut, I was hard pressed to spot many dead trees. I would say the areas to be cut have fewer dead trees than any lodgepole forest I've seen in the county. The plan specifies that areas in which less than a certain percentage of trees died would not be cut, but the Forest Service seems to be disregarding this or else sticking to their calculation that a lot of trees died.
But having some dead trees is actually a good thing. In the natural order of things, as the aging sun-loving lodgepole pines start to thin out, shade-tolerant spruce and fir start to grow up underneath them — something which I did notice happening. Because we already have far more lodgepole versus spruce-fir than God and nature intend for our climate, this natural succession process is a wonderful thing. By nature, lodgepole pine only grow here following a fire and fire has not historically been a major part of our ecology. Until the current heat wave, the last major fires here were in the late 1800s and likely caused by miners. But clear-cutting does mimic some of the conditions of fire. The reason we do have so much lodgepole now is that much of the county was clear-cut during the Depression out of desperation for income sources. The lodgepole forests that resulted are just now reaching the stage where they are starting the gradual change to spruce-fir.
The odious Ophir Plan also had the nerve to state the dubious value of regeneration of lodgepole pine as one of its primary purposes. (Monoculture lodgepole forests have their own beauty, but are largely sterile compared to spruce-fir and far more susceptible to pests, disease, wind and fire.) With fire unfortunately now possibly becoming part of our ecology, there will way too much opportunity to regenerate our already overabundant lodgepole. The Williams Fork Fire alone should far more than satisfy any possible reason for wanting to regenerate lodgepole in the region. We certainly don't need to willfully mow down some of our best lodgepole, setting nature's succession process back 100 years — and living without forest along one of our greatest trails for much of those 100 years. So, again, I ask why?
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Please join me in demanding that our elected officials publicly state their stance on the impending destruction of the Peaks Trail forest and what, if anything, they are doing to stop it.
Courteous truck drivers on Tiger Road
There has been a lot printed regarding rock hauling trucks on Tiger Road. While I do not live on Tiger Road, I do cycle it frequently and would like to point out that, in my experience, the rock hauling trucks have been very courteous drivers. Those big trucks can be scary but, in my case, have consistently made an effort to respect my position on the road. On one occasion, when trucks were approaching me from both directions, the eastbound truck slowed down until the westbound truck had passed, thus allowing me a safe place on the road. I have felt much more threatened when being passed by other vehicles — autos that don't move over at all, even if no one is coming the other way and especially by pickups hauling a flatbed load of ATVs. Those guys don't move over at all and blow by at speed.
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