Letter: Prescribed fire is back in Aspen

The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies would like to commend the U.S. Forest Service and the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit on their successful execution of the Hunter Creek prescribed fire this weekend. The operation, which is part of the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan, successfully treated 900 of the 1,000 acres of mountain shrub and aspen ecosystems within the project area. The burn will enhance wildlife habitat and reduce wildfire fuels.

The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies has been the lead project proponent of the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan since its inception in 2011. The plan seeks to improve forest health, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities on more than 4,000 acres of federal land in the wildland-urban interface adjacent to Aspen. Saturday’s prescribed fire is the result of years of work and represents a victory for restoration and collaboration.

To everyone at the White River National Forest: Thank you for the time and energy put into this project and allocation of limited specialist resources to make this prescribed fire a reality. We would like to extend special thanks to prescribed fire specialist Jim Genung, Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams and District Ranger Karen Schroyer for executing this project without a hitch.

To our financial partners on the burn — Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and the city of Aspen — which helped the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies fund this project: Thank you for recognizing the value of cross-jurisdictional, watershed-scale restoration efforts. Our forest is more resilient and our community safer because of it.

To our public-outreach partners on the burn — Wilderness Workshop, Aspen Fire, the White River National Forest, Pitkin County and the city of Aspen: Thank you for helping us tell the story behind the advantages of returning fire to these ecosystems. We look forward to continuing educational efforts as we monitor the ecological benefits of this burn.

And finally, to the Aspen community: Thank you for your participation in this process and for trusting that prescribed fire is a valuable and needed tool for ecologically sound land management and restoration.

Jamie Werner

Forest programs director, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies