Sometimes, the best thing politicians can do is to step aside and let science lead to decisions.
And a report released Monday by the U.S. Forest Service that shows the infestation of pine bark beetles has extended to the Front Range and Wyoming is a good opportunity.
It is no secret that Mark Udall has always opposed both forest road building and more than token forest thinning. He is selling his vote to the Sierra Club for big dollars. So, now he wants to hold a "workshop" on the issue. Just more of the same politics.
Sadly, this report could become a lightning rod for extremists [ like Mark Udall and his allies] who say that no intervention is needed or for those who would advocate massive and intrusive thinning programs. More than likely, the best solution is in the middle somewhere.
Allowing the infestation to go unchecked would affect key economic factors in Colorado, including the skiing and recreation industries. Such a scenario would raise the risk of a catastrophic forest fire in Colorado followed by devastating floods. Water supplies also could be placed at risk.
If every timber company in the state and region (there are only a single handful) started cutting wood 24 hours a day, they couldn't make a dent in the number of fire breaks that need to be prepared to stop a catastrophic Colorado fire. Frankly, if every adult in the state went into the woods and did nothing but thinning for the next several summers, we still are likely to have a catastrophic fire.
Newspapers like the Coloradoan have to start telling the public the truth about the magnitude of the problem. Negative comments about "massive and intrusive thinning programs" aren't helpful because they 1) couldn't be mounted or paid for even if they were contemplated and 2) provide cover for those extremists who want to prevent any thinning.