Recreation wrapped in wood

In the last blog post, I didn’t get a good chance to wrap the story of recreation and forest management together as well as I should have.  I don’t believe that every acre should be managed and I don’t think every acre should be thinned.  Different management techniques that can and should be used to manage forests.  When it comes to our national forests in the United States, thinning is a great tool to use.  We desperately need to reduce the fuel loads in the forests.  We have too many trees.  I saw a report yesterday that the most recent tree tally of the United States came to 96.6 billion trees with a diameter of at least 5 inches.  That means trees outnumber people 300 to 1 in the US. 

Too many trees

That says something, but it doesn’t tell us everything.  We have more trees, but in many cases far too many trees.  In the intermountain west, where we have roads and have managed in the past there are more trees per acre now than ever before.  This includes recreation areas and the places leading up to them.  Why can’t we manage these forests at a pace and scale that allows us to get a handle on the fires, insect outbreak, and disease?

We need to protect our recreational assets and managing forests effectively can help fund maintenance and improvements to recreation.  We can manage in a way that balances the value of the material, the environmental impacts, the aesthetic values, recreational systems and public safety.

Cross Country Skiing

This is the United States.  We should have the best recreational opportunities of any place in the world.  Very few nations have incredible National Forests like we do.  We can and should have amazing wilderness areas.  We should have lands managed for conservation purposes.  And for the land that can be managed, they should be managed in a collaborative manner that best balances the values of our citizens.  The good news is that we can, and it is cost effective to do so if we rebuild enterprises that match up with what the environment needs.

Recreational opportunities exist in all of these places.  I want to see recreation of all types supported and developed in areas appropriate for each.  There should be excellent backcountry trails that are appropriately managed for the uses that are allowed.  We should have a mix of trails in the areas managed for conservation purposes including both motorized and non-motorized in their appropriate places.

In the active management areas, we should have functional trailheads and campgrounds that the American public and international visitors can use and enjoy that are clean and well managed.  We should focus efforts to make sure that each recreation use is in the appropriate location as to not adversely impact the recreational enjoyment of others.

Massive fuel loads, even near roads lead to massive fires

In 2015, the Colville National Forest, along with many others around the West experienced massive wildfires.  There were many recreational areas adversely impacted.  Trails and roads were shut down for extended periods of time.  Many of the acres were backcountry, but there were also areas that had been slated for management which included thinning, selective harvesting, and regeneration harvests designed to create openings based on science.

If that project had been completed in would have been interesting to see how that fire behaved and what recreation areas could have been saved.  These projects aren’t designed to exclude fire, rather they are intended to allow the fire to perform like it would have historically.  Burning the understory, killing a few trees, but allowing the forest to stay intact.  When fires behave as they did historically, the forest rebounds quickly.  This means that the trails are ready to enjoy the next season with only hints of the fire that was there.

Family ski day at 49 Degrees North Ski Area on the Colville National Forest

I enjoy recreation of all types, and I want to see these areas improved.  This can only be done if we combine our efforts and build an understanding that managing our forests together will get us the greatest benefits.  Forest management should be something that recreationists see and get excited about.  Knowing that the well thought out efforts are going to benefit their interests for generations to come.

8 thoughts on “Recreation wrapped in wood”

  1. Great article Russ.
    Suggestion; next time, don’t forget about my huckleberry 🙁
    and other natural foods and medicines.
    Also, remember the concept of creating defensible ground to have Ann opportunity to stop a wildfire.

    Have a great day☺
    Lim limpt ( thank you )

    1. John, we should talk sometime about the issues with the native people as it pertains to forests and forest management. I’d love to write about it sometime. Thanks for taking the time to comment. All the best.

      1. Russ,
        Anytime you want to talk is fine with me. I grew up being taught traditional management practices of our ancestors. The use of fire was the main tool. When leaving a camp site…to leave it in just as good as if not better that when you arrived. Tracking our four legged friends to know where to hunt and where not to hunt. Knowing the environment in which our foods, medicines and other sources thrive in.
        It was an Honor to work for you folks. At the cutting edge of resource management.

        1. Good morning Russ,

          I recently lost my personnel cell phone. Can you call me with yours at 509-978-9042. This is my work phone.

          Hope All is well

          John

  2. Russ,
    I really appreciate the ongoing effort and time you are investing in educating the public. I strongly believe that you are making a positive impact and in fact the supportive often silent crowd that believe in the same healthy forest for all are starting to wake up and realize the potential for the future .
    Yesterday’s technologies change daily so has the treatment of our forest over the last 150 years

  3. This was once done here in the US. Forests were thinned and the money was used to thin other areas that had no monetary value plus planting, clearing trails for recreation and maintaining roads for public recreation. This money was also used to fight fires. Then the Eco terrorists evolved and shut everything down. Forests are unmanaged now, allowing disease and catastrophic fire to completely destroy everything. Expenditures for trail, roads and fire suppression now has to come from taxpayer pockets. One would think this human race of ours could learn from our mistakes.

  4. Russ,
    Great article with many good points.
    There is an opportunity to take it even a step farther and combine the FS and the BLM and eliminate a great deal of unneeded duplication. In this day and age of modern communications and transportation, there is only need for one natural resource agency.
    The FS always uses the excuse that it is like a big ship and difficult to turn or change direction – instead of thinking of it as a big ship, lets think of it as a high speed train and build it a new set of tracks to a new destination.

    1. Mike,

      I wholeheartedly agree. I think we need a permanent firefighting force that is under another Federal Agency like FEMA. It would be much smaller but could mobilize quickly and hire seasonal workers, utilize the military and national guard. Land managers should be focused on managing land, not preparing for fires that are exacerbated by a lack of action.

      We need a forests and lands agency that incorporates the managed lands with all federal ownerships. Thanks for your comments!

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