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Neglect is bad management

Ross Talbott
Out on a Limb
Ross Talbott
Staff Photo |

This is an interesting summer here in western Colorado.

I always thought that the Smoky Mountains were in Virginia or somewhere in the Eastern United States.

I have a whole different perspective now.

Fortunately the fires generating the smoky haze are not local.

At one point the media stated that there were 84 fires in the Northwest and about 1 million square miles had burned.

The total of houses and other buildings destroyed has continued to climb.

As I am writing this, we are anticipating a shift in the weather pattern that will clear the air and hopefully bring us some moisture.

Growing up in farming and ranching I can say that I started more fires than most firefighters will ever deal with.

Also, being a retired fireman, I can relate with great sympathy to the men who are trying to control great forest fires.

In my past, farmers and ranchers spent a lot of time burning ditch banks and fields.

This was actually fire prevention because it cleaned up a lot of areas where a dropped cigarette or a lighting strike could start a fire that could get out of hand before anyone could show up to control it.

I used to clean and burn about 2 miles of my irrigation ditch down Elk Creek by myself.

In about 30 years of doing that, the fire never got away, and I eliminated a lot of dangerous fuel.

Now they require permits or slap on fire bans.

Cheatgrass and other fuels build up because cleaning them up by controlled burn is problematic.

Another problem to consider is the reduction of cattle and sheep grazing.

The Coal Seam Fire is a good example. The mine fire had been burning for many years but it had never started a brush/forest fire.

The city of Glenwood had always given a grazing permit to a rancher. Therefore, the cattle had grazed down the early green grass around the mine and reduced the ground fuel over the entire area.

The year of the fire they stopped the grazing and leased the land to the gun club.

By walking in the forest, cattle also make hoof imprints that push fallen leaves and plant seeds into the ground that enriches the soil and helps retain the water.

Another aspect of bad forest management is also evident around places like Vail, where there is massive beetle kill.

The main defense trees have against boring insects is to fill the bore hole with sap. When there is insufficient moisture, that defense is compromised.

As you drive through the mountains, notice that the south-facing slopes have more dead trees.

Do you see the moisture problem?

Maybe thinning the trees would have helped the forest survive the dry years.

My point of this whole rant is that neglect is not a good management technique. However, that seems to be the technique that all the so-called environmentalists promote. The plan seems to be to close as many road accesses to public land as possible to keep the humans out.

These are also the same people who believe loving animals means to increase the predators. An adult mountain lion will kill about a deer per week.

If you want to see a beautiful example of shared management, just visit Grand Mesa.

Some 300 lakes full of trout, beautiful cabins, foxes living under the decks and deer grazing the yard.

Forests are no different than your house, your job or your family.

Neglect is not good management.

“Out On A Limb” appears on the first Tuesday of the month. Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle, where he is a business owner.


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