Healthy forests

Flu season is here, so are you going to take some action to prevent catching the flu? The doctors say that to be healthy, don’t smoke, do exercise, eat right, and drink water. How do we measure health? The medical community, with years of experience, has established criteria measuring weight to height and body mass, blood pressure, endocrine levels, blood oxygen levels, etc. If you go to the doctor, they do all the tests then give you a suggested “lifestyle” of eating, exercise, and so on. It is your body so you make the final decisions to take action or not. Of course, if you have a problem, you want the doctor to be well trained, have lots of experience with your issue, and a good record of success treating your kind of issues. Or maybe you could go to the internet or to a good claims lawyer that has been successful in winning lots of medical malpractice suits. Who should you listen to?

Do we want the states’ public lands and forests to be healthy? After all, that is where most of our water, wood products, minerals, forage for wildlife and livestock originate from to sustain our lives and economy. It is claimed that we do care, however, we don’t seem to agree on what determines a “healthy” forest and range and how to measure it, and especially, how to treat it. To start with, it is easier to say what not to do! Do not set it aside to “let nature do its thing.” If you have a cancer you do not sit back and say “let’s see what it will do.” Next, realize and accept the fact that ALL of nature is in constant change, including man, and is constantly experiencing new life, sickness, and death. That is the simple fact of life. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not yet, so today is all we have to work with. So what is a “healthy forest” for today? Is our forest sick and in need of treatment?

Well, if you haven’t noticed, the forest from the west end of the Glade all the way east through the Weminuche has contracted some nasty bugs. When checking its vitals, it was burning up with high temperatures, which resulted in severe cases of nasty soil diarrhea literally running down and out Hesperus Creek and in smaller cases on Bear and Plateau creeks. Large clones of oldgrowth aspen are dying out with no replacements for them. All of this has been going on without checking into the Emergency Room Office! It is mind-boggling wondering how this could happen when the radical “environmental movement” had been able to greatly reduce or stop logging, wood gathering, livestock grazing, vehicle recreation use, and off-road camping. They would think that would have protected the forest from getting “sick.” Just avoid contamination by locking out users and “protecting” the forest by designating it Wilderness, Roadless, Natural Area, Special Management Area, National Monument, or National Park, then all would be well. Right? Wrong! So what went wrong? Pretty much everything!

The forest is a complex of life forms forming a symbiotic relationship that together provides a living and thriving environment on a mosaic of differing soils, aspects, elevations and waters. Water is the single most important compound for all life in the forest and beyond. The water enables the vegetation to flourish, providing ground cover of grass and flowering plants, shrubs and the over story of trees. A healthy forest of vegetation provides for the benefit and needs of a variety of animal and avian and yes, Man. Did you ever wonder why our Creator made ONLY man with the ability to manage and manipulate the vegetation on the Earth for the benefit of his and other animal life? The management and use of vegetation has a profound impact on how water is made available for all life in the forest and beyond.

Recently, it was noted that about $50 million from the national forest budget will be made available to the San Juan Forest under the new Rocky Mountain Restorative Initiative to attempt to tackle the nasty failing forest health issue. There will be $5 million per year available for 10 years and will involve private lands in addition to the public forest lands.

Where will this forest “doctoring” be done since close to three-quarters of the San Juan is in designated wilderness and roadless areas where active treatment for health and protection is not permitted? Fortunately, much of what little of the forest remains available for health treatment lies in the Dolores River drainage, where the current latest large-insect infestation is occurring and treatment can be applied. The Forest Service’s experienced “doctors” have already conducted a complete health needs analysis, an EA, and prescribed a sound treatment plan. Kudos to the Dolores Ranger District for this work. Will the work be expedited, or will the usual faux environmental “pretend doctors” and their malpractice lawyers be attacking the health treatment plans looking for a payoff settlement? Who do you listen to, the experienced “doctor” that you are paying, or the snake oil salesman with his personal agenda? It is really frustrating when the faux environmental groups are allowed to treat the public lands as “theirs,” and filing litigation actions to stop, change or delay management to conserve, improve and protect the public lands and resources. The local county government is the legal coordinating authority with the Federal agencies, not ANY special interest group. The interference by the faux environmental groups is costing taxpayers, damaging the economy and retarding much-needed treatment time to regain forest health. Actions must be initiated to end these outside attacks on the local forests and county economies.

Dexter Gill is a retired forest manager who worked for private industry, three Western state forestry agencies, and the Navajo Nation forestry department. He writes from Lewis, Colo.

From Dexter Gill.