Forest Service makes green push
November 15, 2007
DENVER ” Energy saving “miser” vending machines, more car-pooling and increased use of alternative fuels are just a few of the ways the U.S. Forest Service will try integrate sustainability into its day-to-day operations.
The federal land management agency is launching its national sustainability push at a three-day conference in Denver this week, but the real impetus came from the ranks, said White River National Forest spokesman Bill Kight.
“Conservation is our mission. It’s only natural that we … conserve fuel, energy and water, reduce waste … seek out renewable energy options and much more,” said Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Rick Cables.
The five-state region, including Colorado, has led the way in nurturing a green ethic in the agency, and is now passing the torch to the national level, according to a Forest Service press release.
A 2006 sustainable operations report says the White River National Forest, headquartered in Glenwood Springs (it includes the Aspen and Sopris ranger districts), reduced its fleet size by 12 percent during the year.
Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton said his ranger station will be considering more fuel efficient vehicles and better energy efficiency in buildings as part of the sustainability push.
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“The reason people got into this business in the first place is because they care about the planet,” Newton said. The agency’s sustainability initiatives go hand-in-hand with that individual ethic, he added.
Newton also said the district’s pine beetle and forest health work is geared toward long-term forest sustainability.
Other forests in the state are using biodiesel from local suppliers, and the region as a whole has been upping orders for alternative fuel vehicles. The regional fleet includes 49 cars and trucks that can run on an ethanol blend and 24 hybrids.
Kight said at least one ranger district has put up solar panels to meet energy needs, and the vending machines in the regional headquarters in Lakewood and at other facilities turn themselves off after 15 minutes, re-activating as needed via motion sensors. The vending machine replacements alone have saved about 71,000 kilowatt hours, or $6,000 in electricity costs.
In other locations, the agency will consider on-demand hot water heaters for its facilities.
The Pikes Peak Ranger District was able to reduce electricity use by seven percent, and natural gas use by 26 percent in 2006, according to the report.
A key part of the Forest Service effort are partnerships with the EPA and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
For more information on the agency’s sustainable efforts, go to http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/sustainable_operations/index.shtml.