In the aftermath of a summer of drought and wildfires in Colorado’s high country, state officials are considering cutting trees in the hopes of increasing the water supply.
Echoing President Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources is debating whether to allow logging of commercial-grade trees from Colorado’s forests. The debate is pitting lawmakers against environmentalists.
The idea is to remove trees and thereby allow more snow to fall to the ground, where it runs off into streams and rivers during the spring. Some forest researchers and many water users complain that Colorado’s high country has grown too many trees in the last few decades that intercept snow that would otherwise add to the snowpack. Colorado’s snowpack melts and runs downhill to farmers and cities every spring, but in the past year the snowpack has been decreased to record lows.
Huge amounts of forest – between 25 percent and 40 percent of a watershed – have to be cut to achieve this increased water yield, according to current research. And land managers would have to maintain those clear-cuts or keep making new ones to keep that extra water flowing.
The Collegian Editorial Board was divided on this issue.
The plan of clearing unneeded underbrush is a sound way to prevent fuel for forest fires from building. However, we strongly disagree with the use of clear-cutting in up to 40 percent of Colorado’s forests.
It is still debatable how much water can be gained from this process, if it is a significant level at all. Before there is any cutting of Colorado forests there needs to be some solid scientific data proving it would be beneficial.
If this plan is even carried out, it must be done in an educated manner, one that will not scar our forests for decades to come.