Letter: Unnecessary clear-cutting in Snowmass
September 23, 2014
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails is planning to clear-cut the gambel oaks and brush on four huge swaths totaling 105 acres on the side of the newly acquired Sky Mountain Park facing Brush Creek Road.
I respect and appreciate the work of Open Space and Trails, but in this case, they are misguided. Those hills are pristine and beautiful and are totally undeveloped, a 3-mile stretch of unbroken vista unmatched in the valley. It is the entry to Snowmass Village. The hills are highly visible to everyone who drives there, whether resident or visitor. Our local governments combined to buy the former Droste property at a very substantial cost to keep it from being developed and despoiled. Having it beautiful and undeveloped enhances property values in Snowmass Village, Brush Creek and the entire area.
What is proposed will result in those hills looking blighted for years. "First do no harm" should be a guiding principle, and I think what they are proposing will do far more harm than good.
This make-work is unnecessary and costly. It is said that clearing out the gambel oaks and brush is important to provide firebreaks and that opening the landscape will benefit wildlife. If there were to be a wildfire there, there are only a couple of homes nearby, as opposed to the rest of our area, where homes are concentrated. The wildlife has lived with the existing conditions for a long time, and they don't seem to be suffering. There are similar terrain and vegetation all over the area, so this will be a token effort. It also will have an environmental impact, as there will be erosion from the bare hills, which will further degrade the land and will lead to runoff into Brush Creek.
Open Space and Trails has indicated that the gambel oaks, the dominant species, will grow back quickly. That is not the case. Gambel oaks are very stately old trees, usually less than 12 feet high, and they grow very, very slowly. It will be several years before the hills stop looking like they've been scalped, like the hills east of Vail where the beetles killed the pine trees. The plan sounds like when these swaths grow back, they plan to cut other areas on the hills.
This has been presented as a done deal. There have been no hearings, and there has been no discussion by public officials. There was just a mailing to Brush Creek homeowners. I have brought this to the attention of the Board of County Commissioners, which is responsible for Sky Mountain Park, and to the Snowmass Town Council, which should be concerned about the entrance to Snowmass. I have hardly had any response. If you care to help stop this, please contact them and also Gary Tennenbaum, of Open Space and Trails, at 970-920-5355 or
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