Treating the beetle-killed forest

Stacks of cut-down trees lay off to the side of the road Aug. 17 on the Snowy Range Scenic Byway.

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

The contents of a meeting Medicine Bow National Forest hosted without giving proper notification to the public was brought to the attention of the Albany County Commission on Tuesday during its meeting.

Former University of Wyoming science education professor Duane Keown said he attended the U.S. Forest Service’s Aug. 8 meeting by chance, where the agency’s Landscape Vegetation Analysis was discussed. After the meeting, he asked U.S. Forest Service personnel if they sent a notification for the meeting, and they said a notification was sent but it was not published in the newspaper, he said.

“I asked (Boomerang Managing Editor Peter Baumann) about it, and he said, ‘We didn’t get a notice,’” Keown said. “I asked (Medicine Bow National Forest administrators) if you didn’t find it in the list of public meetings, why didn’t you find out why?”

During the meeting, the forest service representatives discussed a plan from Washington, D.C., to harvest more trees in national forests, he said. An increase of logging in the area could cause problems between those efforts and people coming to the national forest for recreational activities, Keown said.

“The plan calls for 51.2 percent of Medicine Bow to be logged,” he said. “Right now, there is a plan by Medicine Bow (National Forest) officials that is going to cause a destructive relationship between recreation — which has become the main use — and logging.”

Keown said, in recent years, more people have visited the Snowy Range for recreational purposes, which brings in additional spending to Albany County. If recreational areas are tampered with from logging, then we could see a reduction of money brought into the county because of that activity, he said.

“It seems that Medicine Bow Mountain and the Snowy Range are growing every year,” Keown said. “We don’t really appreciate the economic value of the Snowy Range, it is a goldmine — they found gold up there in the late 19th century, but it is not like what we’ve got up there now with recreation.”

According to information provided by the Forest Service, one of the agency’s goals is to furnish a continuous supply of lumber for the nation, which helps regulate forests and helps ecosystems become more resilient. In 2017, the Forest Service estimated it would receive more than $359.8 million in the sale of forest products, forest service information states.

In order to harvest the large amount of lumber the forest service seeks to extract, hundreds of miles of temporary roads would need to be constructed to move equipment and lumber throughout the national forest, Keown said.

“According to the plan, there are to be 600 miles of temporary roads … and 10 miles of permanent roads to access the temporary roads,” he said. “To go 600 (west) miles down Interstate 80 … you would make it to Elko, Nevada, and that is all for this small corner of Medicine Bow.”

Albany County Commission Chairman Tim Chesnut said he saw problems with the plan Keown told the commission about and he hopes to speak with forest service employees in January.

“Even though that is part of the plan, it is pretty impractical to think there are 600 miles of roads that could be built there.” Chesnut said. “We appreciate the information and hopefully the forest service will respond and get the notification out so the meeting in January will be as well attended as we hope.”

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