Forests need management
September 29, 2010
What kind of forests will we leave for future generations? Obviously we want them healthy and full of life. The question, then, becomes how do we accomplish this? Some believe making it Wilderness is the answer. However, we must think about how the forest may look 20 years from now.
The state of Colorado is losing its forests at an alarming rate. Some causes include the mountain pine beetle and different diseases of aspen trees.
Natural controls of mountain pine beetle (MPB) include woodpeckers and insects such as clerid beetles, which feed on adults and larvae under the bark. However, during outbreaks these natural controls often fail to prevent additional attacks.
Extreme cold temperatures can also reduce MPB populations. For winter mortality to be a significant factor, a severe freeze is necessary while the insect is in its most vulnerable stage; i.e., in the fall before the larvae have metabolized glycerols, or in late spring when the insect is molting into the pupal stage. For freezing temperatures to affect a large number of larvae during the middle of winter, temperatures of at least 30 degrees below zero must be sustained for at least five days.
An important method of prevention involves forest management. In general, MPB prefer forests that are old and dense. Managing the forest by creating diversity in age and structure will result in a healthy forest that will be more resilient and, thus, less vulnerable to MPB. Most mature Colorado forests have about twice as many trees per acre as those forests which are more resistant to MPB.
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The U.S. Forest Service in the White River National Forest sells wood-cutting permits for personal use to remove only dead trees. According to the regulations, vehicles are prohibited from driving more than 300 feet off the road. For cutting commercially, the Forest Service marks all trees that they feel should be left standing to maintain a healthy forest. Harvesting these trees is not only good for the health of our forest but also saves a healthy tree from being cut down somewhere else. I, for one, would hate to see any more of our forest look like the forests in Summit County.
We also need to think of the devastation a wildfire could do. How many years would it take for the watershed, wildlife and forests to recover from a large wildfire? If roads are left open, these roads could make containing a wildfire faster and easier; 3,213 acres of roads left open to help protect in 2.3 million acres of White River National Forest seems like cheap insurance. I urge you not to support any Wilderness proposals that close existing roads.
There is no question the Forest Service needs more money to manage our forests and enforce laws. Instead of spending so much money on different Wilderness proposals, imagine how much could be accomplished by giving it all to the White River National Forest.