The time is now
Our forests, the lands we treasure for their beauty, their protection of air and water quality and quantity, their wildlife habitat, and their stability, have always endured death and disease and have survived.
But, that is not the discussion. Several years ago, mountain communities realized that a protective buffer zone did not exist between a forest made extremely vulnerable to fire by disease and drought and the community that forest surrounds. As a result, concerned jurisdictions created plans to address the issues of safety. These plans addressed the need for a Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Plan for designated areas of concern surrounding vulnerable communities. State and federal legislation opportunities followed to provide both planning support and funding.
A comprehensive plan was developed in Pitkin County (by a representative committee) to address the needs in the Conundrum area, an area determined to be at great risk for fire that could spread easily from the community to the forest or from the surrounding forest to the homes in the Conundrum area. Lack of funding and lack of adequate concern led to no action in the Conundrum area.
Smuggler Mountain was suggested at that time as a next area of concern. Fortunately, residents of the city and the county, current owners of the area of Smuggler Mountain in question, have the opportunity, now, with the heightened concern of residents and the leadership of For the Forest and the city and county Parks and Open Space divisions to address the issue of community safety by creating a buffer zone between residential development and forest.
If no one lived on Smuggler Mountain, or in Aspen or its forested environs, we might be having a very different discussion. But, we are all here. And, I believe, we have an obligation to do what we can to protect both the lands that surround our communities and the people who live in those communities.
Staff and members of the For The Forest group are working diligently to address a problem that has been ignored for too long. Perhaps it is time to offer support and positive suggestions instead of unwarranted criticism.
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.