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Colorado: Can we log our way to forest health?

Still lots of dead trees around the Colorado high country.

Forest health task force session wants to answer that question

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — just a week after Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support more logging, the Summit County Forest Health Task Force will hold a roundtable to discuss barriers to forest health.

The meeting, which includes lunch, is from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Frisco Community Building, 110 Third Avenue South, Frisco (one block south of Main Street). Participants include: Lyle laverty, Cary Green, Matt Sugar, Bruce Ward, Howard Hallman, Brad Piehl and Sandy Briggs. Please RSVP by calling or emailing Howard Hallman at (719) 491-1807 or future1946@yahoo.com.

Udall last week urged Vilsack to support proactive forest management by utilizing the timber industry to reduce fuel loads in wildfire-prone areas and improve community safety throughout the West. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.) signed onto Udall’s letter.

“We are at a critical juncture. With historically overgrown forests, a continuing drought, vast stretches of beetle-kill forest and more people living in fire zones, we need to work expeditiously to promote ecological restoration. … We write to express our support for treating more acres in our states – particularly in the wildland-urban interface, and backcountry areas with critical infrastructure.

“Specifically, we ask you to consider expanding the timber management program, and prioritize timber sales,” the senators wrote. “This capacity is critical to support local economies, safeguard drinking water supplies, and protect communities. … There has never been a better time to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, restore forest health, and create jobs while also helping us convert hazardous fuels into energy.”

Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has  been an outspoken advocate of preparing Colorado communities for the ongoing threat of wildfire.

According to a U.S. Forest Service study of the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire in Boulder Countya study Udall requested – the condition of the Home Ignition Zone, the design, materials and the maintenance of the home and the area 100 feet around it, is critical to determining if a home will survive a wildfire.

Colorado’s senior senator also has actively pressed the federal government to study the recent record-setting fires that burned along the Front Range in an effort to improve how federal, state and local agencies respond to future blazes. Udall recently requested that the U.S. Forest Service study the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires to understand the social, economic, organizational and ecological impacts of both fires as well as to understand how to mitigate the impact of future fires.

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