Paul Wellman: Forests should not be managed like cornfields
November 20, 2018
This letter to the editor is written in response to the article that published in the Sunday, Nov. 18 issue of Steamboat Pilot & Today, “From destruction to growth – Beetle-killed timber builds opportunities across Colorado.”
Until settlers showed up on the scene, the Rocky Mountains were covered by vast forests of huge trees living in a lush environment that had taken millions of years to spring up out of the rocks.
Once on the scene, the settlers immediately began to devastate this remarkable natural resource. They were just following the lead of their ancestors’ devastation of the amazing forests of the East Coast.
I spent about 20 years logging beetle killed timber in Northwest Colorado. When we started in the mid-70s, the U.S. Forest Service Yampa district sent us out to explore and find a suitable patch of timber. While driving on a road near Gore Pass, we encountered a Kaibab Lumber Company employee.
He laughed at our mission and said that Kaibab was pulling out of Northwest Colorado because there was no usable timber left. He considered dead timber trash. There was a Kaibab mill in Steamboat Springs. The old burner was moved and is now the building that houses Orange Peel Bicycles.
My company utilized this so called trash for 20 years, although it got hard toward the end.
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There had been a large green timber mill in Kremmling, it was replaced by a wafer board plant by Louisiana Pacific after the usable mill timber had been depleted in the area. The wafer board plant used everything else left in the woods including green, dead, aspen, pine, spruce of all dimensions. Everything was ground up for wafer board. The wafer board plant closed in the ’80s, partly due to air pollution.
I would argue with Bill Jackson of the Dillion Ranger District that there have to be uses found for everything that is left in our vastly mismanaged, depleted forests. How can he say "clearing of dead timber is critical for forest health?” Critical for forest health to take it back to bare rock?
Continuing down this path of harvesting the remaining material left on our forest lands "translates to more work and more jobs," according to Molly Pitts, programs manager for the Intermountain Forest Association, is not supported by science. Even though the Forest Service is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it shouldn’t continue managing our forests like cornfields.