“Tree thinning at Heil Valley Ranch.” The Longmont Times-Call reported in its 3/6/09 edition that contractors have been brought in to “thin” (clear-cut as the excellent and disturbing accompanying photo shows) 163 acres of trees on this taxpayer-owned property. Just how Boulder County’s open-space czar can unleash mayhem such as this on the environment without the public knowing about it until after we see a gigantic machine actually chewing up the forest and destroying habitat, is beyond the pale.
There are excuses all over the place, of course. Those responsible call it “healthy destruction.” But what sense does it make, especially in Colorado where it’s so terribly hard to grow anything green because of the thin air, short season and lack of moisture, to deliberately defeat natural replacement? There is nothing new about insect infestations and fires. If the county Open Space bureaucrats were truly interested in saving the forest from insect infestations, they would use insecticides and be done with it. Cutting the infected trees may slow, but it is not going to stop the offending beetles which will simply move on to infect and kill more trees. Likewise, if these county bureaucrats were truly interested in preventing forest fires, they would allow the careful, commercial harvesting of timber and underbrush to create breaks so that the taxpayers would at least not have to shell out $250,000 for periodical “thinning” – an amount that more appropriately should have gone toward repaying the huge $192,000,000 debt run up on us taxpayers by the unelected officials running the Boulder County Open Space department. Relevantly, was this quarter-million dollar job put out for bid?
“This project will make the forest resemble the ones settlers saw when they first arrived in Colorado … a mosaic of uneven-aged forest,” the news story said. Well, who knows what they actually saw? To try to replicate the past is a nice dream but there are many things about Colorado that no amount of money or good intentions can ever bring back. (Note: My great-grandparents settled on the east-central prairie of Colorado in 1888. I’ve lived here all my life. Gone from that region where I grew up is most all of the “tall grass”; but buffalo grass, a sturdy, nutritious drought-resistant variety has survived and taken over, naturally.)
The message? Rather than tinkering, sometimes it’s better to do nothing.