I support the forest health work proposed under Ballot Measure 1A, which offers badly needed help for our forests and steps toward preventing catastrophic wildfire.
Our forests are responding to climate change in several ways. Our conifer forests are burning up in large fires because of decades of fire suppression and lack of any management. The Hayden Pass fire, among other large fires, is a good example.
Insects such as spruce beetle, Douglas fir beetle, mountain pine beetle and balsam bark beetle are active in conifers and contributing to extensive mortality that sometimes leads to large fires. Dwarf mistletoes and other diseases such as armillaria are slowing growth and killing conifers.
Aspen are dying from collections of pathogens and insects. In severe cases aspen clones are being killed by what is known as Sudden Aspen Decline, or SAD, in response to past droughts. Aspen are also being replaced by conifers because conifers out-compete aspens almost every time.
There has been some management in the public and private sectors of our forests, but there needs to be much more in order to have sustainable forests that will last. If we do nothing, then much of what we have now will be lost.
Our forests are key to our economy, quality of life, wildlife habitat and water quality, and they are critical to Chaffee County’s view corridors. With 1A, we have the opportunity to act now instead of scrambling to respond to a full-scale crisis.
The way to sustainability is planning and implementation of forest management on the landscape scale, across multiple ownerships. Insects, diseases and overcrowded forests seldom stop at landowner boundaries.
As a community we can help support this work through 1A. I urge all Chaffee County voters to say “Yes” on Nov. 6 to our forests, waters and working lands.