Friday, December 13, 2013

Beetle aftermath Part 2: New forestry

Colorado’s timber industry is inextricably linked to the U.S. Forest Service. Over two-thirds of the state of Colorado is forested or woodland, and most of it lies in the high country. The U.S. Forest Service manages the bulk. And when it comes to beetle kill in the West, nearly all of the salvageable timber for mills lies in national forests – around 88 percent. As Colorado’s forests experience mass disturbances, from wildfire to beetle epidemics, mills argue the federal agency must work to make timber available and revive a lumber industry that died out decades ago. It’s useful in the short-term by helping to remove hazard trees and unsightly dead stands. Loggers and mill operators contend their industry is also vital in the long-term for forest regeneration, reducing wildfire fuels and thinning tree density for healthier stands that fight future bug outbreaks. Operators like Birtcher know the economic importance of their sawmills, too. The Montrose mill creates nearly 100 jobs and opportunities for workers to provide for their families. The mill contracts local loggers and truckers. Workers spend their wages at businesses in town. But studies show logging has negative impacts, too, both environmentally and economically. Even in a landscape awash with over 3 million acres of dead pine and an ever-growing number of dead spruce, the question remains whether Colorado can sustainably harvest enough trees and support a timber industry into the future...more

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