WCC members have played a leading role in brokering what is shaping up to be a reasonable compromise on a massive forest treatment project proposed by the GMUG National Forest.
The plan, known as the Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response (SBEADMR), proposes to treat up to 120,000 acres of spruce and aspen forest over a period of 8-12 years through a combination of commercial logging and non-commercial, non-mechanical treatments such as prescribed fire. It’s a large-scale and far-reaching plan that will impact many resources on the forest, ranging from wildlife habitat to soils and watershed quality to new road construction.
SBEADMR has caused quite a stir in the conservation community, with organizations lining up across the spectrum to oppose different aspects of the plan. We at WCC have been in close conversation with our allies about their concerns, and we share many of them. However, in July we chose to submit our own comments based on our unique history with the GMUG Forest.
Since our big battles with the Forest Service in the 1980s, WCC has worked with the agency and other stakeholders collaboratively to resolve our differences. The success of this approach is reflected in our award-winning work together on the Uncompahgre Plateau Restoration project. This 10-year collaborative experience has served as our guide throughout the SBEADMR proposal.
To be clear, WCC understands that the spruce-beetle epidemic has caused drastic changes to our forests. We recognize that thousands of acres of dead trees pose a hazard to people who live and recreate near them, and need to be dealt with. We don’t oppose logging and we understand the role the Montrose timber mill plays in our regional economy. As such, our comments seek to find a middle ground on this plan – holding it to the highest standards possible while focusing the treatments on forest health objectives and public safety priorities.
Specifically, we ask the Forest Service to:
- Keep the size and scope of the project reasonable, prioritizing treatments for forest health and public safety.
- Limit treatments in areas where spruce and aspen are naturally regenerating, letting the future forest regrow on its own.
- Avoid or mitigate to the highest degree possible treatments in or near habitat used by Canada lynx and other sensitive species, such as the Western purple martin and flammulated owl.
- Use existing roads wherever possible, and ensure that any new roads are temporary and will be completely removed from the landscape after treatment.
- Ensure a robust and accountable collaborative process with a diverse group of stakeholders to monitor implementation through the life of the project.
For more information or to get involved, please contact WCC Organizer Emily Hornback at (970) 256-7650 or [email protected]