A hot idea | AspenTimes.com

A hot idea

Nothing like a 12,000-acre fire in your backyard to get a person interested in fire ecology. I've been wading my way through a book by that very name, "Fire Ecology in the Rocky Mountain Landscapes," by William Baker. It's not light reading, but it sure has taught me a few things I didn't know about wildfires.

The Lake Christine Fire and its aftermath also cause me to wonder if the Pan and Fork parcel, still under discussion, might be a great place for a small wildfire ecology institute. With the Roaring Fork Conservancy building recently completed, Rocky Mountain Institute next door, might the adjoining parcel be a good place for scientists and policy experts to study and plan for what will certainly be a future of continued wildfires in the West? Those three institutes sitting next to each other would make Basalt a considerable force in the world of environmental issues and would draw highly educated young people to the town.

Add a few amenities where these bright minds could meet for lunch or coffee and the southern end of Basalt could have the feel of a very small college. To me, that sounds like a better alternative than stock condominiums or generic commercial buildings.

A fire ecology/policy institute in Basalt could have strong links to the fire program at the College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University and would in many ways be closer to the action.

We have much to learn about wildfires in the west and if the leading scientists are right, we will have many many more wildfires in the years to come with our warming atmosphere. Maybe the Panand Fork parcel in Basalt would be a good place to center the learning —and planning — related to fire ecology.

Mark Harvey

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