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Front Page » July 8, 2003 » Local News » Proper management focus protects forest
Published 4,441 days ago

Proper management focus protects forest

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Staff reporter

Prescribed burning is one method the forest service utilizes to control dead wood and unwanted growth . Trees in the Pontown area above Scofield Reservoir were part of a controlled burn almost two years ago. New growth is beginning to appear at the bottom of the trees and the area has been cleared of dry brush that ignites quickly and burns at high temperatures.

The emphasis of forest management in the United States has changed a great deal in the last century.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the time of the "conservationists" was just beginning.

Spearheaded by leaders like President Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive within the Republican Party, people began to view forests as more of a place than a source of wood to serve industry.

It was a time to start preserving forests for ancient values and utilitarian use of tourism and recreation.

With the movement began more development in the forests and fires that were man caused or started by natural forces threatened entire economies.

Techniques were developed to fight wood devouring blazes and soon, with the coming of mechanization and air power, wildfires were being suppressed continually.

In more recent times, the concept of always suppressing fires as soon as possible has been under scrutiny. Officials and scientists have determined that a fire in a forest can be a good thing.

But one problem with letting fires burn is that private property and lives can be endangered. There have also been a number of famous cases where forest managers have decided to let small fires burn that turned into large uncontrollable blazes.

Presently, diseases and insects are rampant in many forests in the U.S. Some of the problems in the West are due to the combination of drought and a hundred years of fire suppression, while others are related to the nature of forests in general.

The situation is piggybacked on top of the environmental movement in the United States in the last 40 years, which frequently seems adverse to whatever managers feel need to be done to improve the health of a forest.

A recent letter from state forestor Joel Frandsen to media outlets at locations throughout Utah sums up several of the difficulties that management officials currently face in the preservation endeavors.

"One need not look too far to see examples of unhealthy forests in Utah," stated Frandsen in the recently published letter. "Portions of the Dixie National Forest in southern Utah are in need of vegetative treatments. The Griffin Springs resource management project (in Garfield County) consisting of spruce/fir and aspen forests is a case-in-point.

"The forest is unhealthy with too many trees per acre. Aspen, a highly desirable species, is being crowded out by the more shade-tolerant spruce and fir trees. Also there is an alarming mortality rate of larger spruce trees due to insect infestation," pointed out Frandsen

Because of the existing conditions, the U.S. Forest Service has proposed a number of timber harvesting techniques to remove many of the diseased trees. But the federal management agency has met opposition from various environmental groups that against logging operations of any kind.

According to Frandsen, the Griffith Springs area decision has been appealed twice by the environmental groups, delaying a process that needs to take place as soon as possible to prevent further damage in the designated area.

State and local officials believe, however, that problems limited to areas like Griffith Springs can be dispelled by driving through many national forests and non-designated U.S.Bureau of Land Management properties in the local area.

A trip up Huntington Canyon reveals numerous dead trees on the north slopes of the mountains, according to forest officials.

A drive down a gas field road along the Book Cliffs will display the numerous dead trees among the cedars and junipers that populate the benches.

Fires flourish in unhealthy forests, emphasize state and local management officials.

And most experts will tell local residents that forests are less healthy because the sites are filled with dead plants and decaying trees.

Last August, the president of the United States office presented their initiative for wildfire prevention and stronger communities proclamation. It cited a number of reasons for the increased number of fires as well as the higher intensity that fires seem to have achieved in the last few years.

First is the temperature at which fires seem to be burning in recent wildland blazes.

The increased temperature, due to dead wood fuel that is available on the forest floor can make a normal fire into a catastrophic fire in only a few hours as indicated by the national report.

Almost all front line fire fighters agree that fuel reduction is an important step in taking preemptive strikes on large fires.

Part of the reason for the concerns focuses not only on fighting the fires, but on the fact the blazes can reach extremely high temperatures.

The blazes can wipe out the forest instead of renewing it like natural fires have in the past.

In the course of the fire's pathway, the blaze burns at all levels of the forest and at such high temperatures that the heat actually sterilizes the ground.

According to the report, it can take as long as a century for a forest to recover from such a fire.

The healthy forests initiative was included as part of the federal document.

The initiative works toward making it easier for state and federal agencies to handle the problems associated with forests, to eliminate a lot of the red tape and dilute the environmental challenges that seem to slow down or stop what the experts in forest management recommend.

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