Why the overkill? | AspenTimes.com

Why the overkill?

I have been following the newspaper regarding the plan by the Division of Wildlife and the state Forest Service to remove trees from the lower portion of Basalt Mountain. At this point in time, I find the actions of these two agencies to be quite disturbing.

Presently, there are approximately 200 juniper and pinion trees per acre in the designated area to be cut. When the cutting is complete, there will be five juniper and pinion trees per acre. Over 19,000 juniper and pinion trees will be cut down!

Let me repeat, over 19,000 juniper and pinion trees gone. Not gone forever, but gone for several hundred years. These juniper and pinion trees are not like aspen or cottonwood trees (which can easily grow a foot or more a year). These juniper and pinion trees grow only about an inch or two a year.

So how long does it take to replace a 20-foot tall juniper or pinion tree? You do the math.

The point being that whatever is cut down will not be replaced for many, many generations and certainly not in the lifetime of any resident in this valley. For that reason, I feel like the Division of Wildlife and the state Forest Service should proceed conservatively rather than what amounts to a “clear cut.”

There does not appear to be any question that the current density of this juniper and pinion forest presents a problem both for wildlife and wildfire. What I find disturbing is the degree of forest destruction being proposed to correct the problem.

Regarding wildlife, Bill Clark, Division of Wildlife biologist, claims that currently the amount of natural food for deer and elk amounts to 100 pounds per acre. After the removal of 19,000 jumpers and pinions, the amount of natural food for these animals will jump to 500 pounds per acre.

Regarding wildfire, Kelly Rogers, state forester, states that to reduce wildfire risk, “the goal would be to leave a 110-foot gap between the canopy of standing trees.” Rogers goes on to say that after the removal of 19,000 junipers and pinions, trees will be spaced at 93 feet apart.

If only one-third or one-half of these trees were removed, would not the wildfire hazard be significantly reduced? If only one-third or one-half of these trees were removed, would not the natural food for the deer and elk be significantly enhanced? My question is, “Why the overkill?”

Overall, what seems to be lacking from these two state agencies is not only an explanation for the complete removal of 100 acres of juniper and pinion forest, but also why it must be done in one fell swoop.

The method being used to cut down the trees, a hydroaxe, can cut them down one at a time. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to cut down a small percentage of these trees and step back and assess the impact before proceeding with a complete clear cut?

After all, once all the of trees are cut down, the process cannot be reversed. I think the Division of Wildlife and the state Forest Service, two taxpayer-funded agencies, need to modify their plan or, at the very least, offer a better explanation for their sense of urgency in taking out 100 acres of forest.

In fact, as a Basalt resident and taxpayer, I expect it.

Greg Shugars


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