Baylor Park: Call a timber sale a timber sale
It’s too late to stop the beetles, but it’s not too late to save the trees.
A settlement reached earlier this month between the U.S. Forest Service and three environmental groups over a proposed timber cut at Baylor Park will lead the Forest Service to do the right thing by not cutting live trees.
Under the agreement, only trees broken off or blown down by a fierce 1999 windstorm may be sold to timber harvesters – about 210 acres.
The U.S. Forest Service originally sought to harvest that wood, and cut down living trees in another 2,790 surrounding acres. The agency said it needed to cut down the trees before they were attacked by pine beetles, which were expected to flourish in the damaged trees.
It was a thin cover for a huge timber sale posing as a “forest health” treatment.
Environmentalists didn’t buy it, and after failing to win an appeal, they sued. Rather than take the case to court, the Forest Service settled.
Pine beetles are part of the natural cycle for forests, just like fire. The blowdown was a natural event as well.
The forests around Baylor Park, so far up Four Mile Road they are in Pitkin County, may suffer from a pine beetle infestation. That’s life. And at this point, it’s far too late to stop the beetles. Scientists say they move out of damaged trees into healthy forest in two years, which would have been 2001.
That area of the White River National Forest is zoned for timber sales. If Forest Service officials feel it’s time to offer those trees for harvest, they should do so.
But they should call it a timber sale, not a treatment. That means the sale would be under normal scrutiny to pay its own way, rather than enjoying a federal subsidy for a “treatment” sale.
Our hat is off to the environmental groups – the Aspen Wilderness Workshop, Colorado Wild and the Center for Native Ecosystems – for pushing the point.
– Heather McGregor,
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