Clear-cutting Colorado a dumb idea

Donald L Ferrt wolfbat359 at
Sun Dec 8 12:20:19 EST 2002,1413,36%257E193%257E1033165,00.html

gail schoettler

Clear-cutting Colorado a dumb idea

Gail Schoettler
Special to the Denver Post
Sunday, December 08, 2002 - Bonehead ideas sometimes flow from state
government. But this one from Natural Resources chief Greg Walcher and
other officials in Gov. Bill Owens' administration wins a prize in the
knucklehead category: Clear-cut Colorado's forests to produce more
water, they say.

What special interest got to these guys? What kind of fools do they
think we are?

Let's put aside, for a moment, the environmental monstrosity this plan
would create. Let's see, instead, who thinks clear-cutting our forests
is a grand idea. Why, the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, who just happens to be a former timber-industry lobbyist.
He's more than thrilled to help us work out this little disaster. And,
of course, our very own Mr. Walcher, who wouldn't know a devastated
environment if it whapped him in the face.

This plan's proponents claim a study shows clear-cutting blocks of
forest will substantially increase water runoff. That would be no
surprise. What they want to ignore is the devastation that results
from wiping out forests, whether by chainsaw or fire. Have they
already forgotten the huge mudslides and boulders that inundated homes
in Durango's fire-ravaged valleys during last summer's heavy rains? Or
the extensive landslides following the Buffalo Creek fire?

Healthy forests protect us from massive erosion and devastating
landslides. They hold the topsoil that would otherwise foul our
streams and fill our reservoirs with sediment. They act like a sponge,
slowing spring runoff and continuing to ooze water even after the snow
has melted. To remove the forest cover might ensure a massive spring
runoff of water, with potential floods, but it won't keep those
streams flowing through the hot summer. Of course, according to the
"study" assuring us of increased water, the clear-cuts would have be
maintained as open mountainsides. Who gets to pay for this
"maintenance"? The new growth trees and underbrush certainly won't
have any commercial value, so no timber company in its right mind
would continue to cut new growth. Guess that leaves us taxpayers with
the bill for ensuring those denuded mountains stay nice and clean.

Then, there's the argument that we have too many trees that are
catching too much snow and are keeping it from hitting the ground
where it will eventually become water for our reservoirs. Well, I'm
wondering what these dreamers think happens to the snow that's caught
on these overly prolific trees. Seems to me that that snow melts, too.
And when the snow melts off the trees, it also becomes water.

What are the environmental impacts of clear-cutting our forests? What
will it mean for global warming? For cleaning pollutants from our air?
For crucial habitat for countless animals? For future snowfall and
water production?

And, what about the impact on a mainstay of our economy, the tourism
industry? The beauty of our mountains attracts sportsmen, sightseers,
campers, hikers, skiers and mountain bikers. If what you come to see
ends up being a mass of scarred mountainsides, why wouldn't you go
someplace else, where policymakers support intelligent use of our
resources, where you can enjoy the natural beauty that restores the

Savaging our forests is not the answer to managing our scarce water
resources. Local water districts are dealing with this issue head-on,
in ways that may not be politically popular but that work nonetheless.
They are promoting measures, including higher usage fees, that
conserve water so that we more accurately match water use with
available supplies.

At the state level, the leadership is based on scratching the back of
your political supporters. It's based on a shortsighted hope for
large-scale water flows in dry years, with no long-term vision of
what's best for Colorado. It's focused on politics, not principle.
This is a great time to demand that our politicians make some hard
choices and to say a resounding "no" to dimwitted politics.

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