The future of forests

Meetings held to discuss roadless areas, beetle spread

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Two significant events related to forest management are this week in Steamboat Springs.

On Thursday, the state's Roadless Areas Review Task Force will host a public forum at Steamboat Springs Middle School to discuss the future use of roadless areas in the Routt National Forest. On Friday, the Society of American Foresters will hold an all-day meeting at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel to analyze the growing impact of bark beetles on pine and spruce trees in Western Colorado.

"There's a lot of interesting discussion going on," said Clark resident John Twitchell, district forester for Colorado State Forest Service and a member of the society of foresters.

Roadless rage

Local conservation groups have been gearing up for Thurs--day's forum since Novem--ber, when the roadless task force appointed by Gov. Bill Owens began hosting similar forums across Colorado to gauge public sentiment about the preservation of roadless areas on national forest lands.

The first forum was Nov. 2 in Delta, and the last is July 19 in Denver. Russell George, executive director of the state Department of Natural Resources, is chairman of the roadless task force, which has heard conflicting opinions about forest use from groups including the logging industry, the oil and gas industries, off-road vehicle users and conservationists.

A lot of local land is on the table.

Diann Ritschard, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service in Steamboat Springs, said the Routt National Forest has 32 inventoried roadless areas totaling more than a half-million acres. The Routt National Forest covers 1,125,564 acres in North--west Colorado.

Roadless areas came under a national spotlight in summer 2004, when the Bush administration overturned the Roadless Area Conservation Rule that was implemented in 2001. That rule set protections against development on 58.5 million acres of national forest lands throughout the United States.

The Bush administration replaced the 2001 rule with a process that requires state governors to petition the Depart--ment of Agriculture for the protection of specified national forest lands in their state. The department will accept petitions from governors until Nov. 13.

Twitchell said he hopes Thursday's forum brings a healthy discussion to Steam--boat.

"I just don't see it as a black-and-white issue," Twitchell said Tuesday. "I think there's lots of room for people to have common ground. I would really hate to see polarization."

Beetle battle

Friday's Society of American Foresters event is an all-day affair, beginning at 8:30 a.m. with discussions and panel presentations about a bark beetle epidemic that has felled millions of trees in Northwest Colorado.

Bark beetles strangle spruce and pine trees by burrowing into their bark and cutting off circulation systems for water and food.

The Steamboat Ski Area is cutting down 1,500 lodgepole pine trees this month to curb the beetle spread. After lunch Friday, participants in the event will tour the ski area to view the beetle impact.

"This topic is going to have huge social interest for the next several years," Twitchell said. "Beetles keep us pretty busy these days."

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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