Change NEPA and allow forests to heal

Congratulations and commendations to Matt Janowiak, U.S. Forest Service Columbine District ranger, who is being proactive in protecting 70 acres in the Cascade Creek area north of Durango Mountain Resort in San Juan County from the oncoming devastation of the bark beetle.

The beetle has already killed millions of trees on hundreds of thousands of acres in the San Juan National Forest and other forests in Colorado, and is the major factor in the disastrous fires around Colorado.

The beetle kill is advancing toward unspoiled areas by at least 2 miles per year. The Janowiak plan is to sell the timber on the 70 acres to private lumber companies that will harvest about 30 percent of the large trees allowing the forest to heal itself.

Because it is a small area, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review requires less review and can be expedited. The NEPA process will still take a year. No telling how long it would take for larger acreages. In the meantime, the beetle marches on.

And what about the rest of the healthy forests in Colorado? Too bad! Part of the problem is NEPA itself. It seems to me that the law should be amended to allow Forest Service employees to act quickly in emergency situations. Janowiak’s leadership is a start, but we must do more. Our environment is depending on us.

J. Paul Brown

Ignacio

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