Sherman’s mission must help forests

Harris Sherman, the U.S. undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and the environment, cited the importance of the Intermountain Resources sawmill to Colorado’s forests in Montrose in a visit on Wednesday.

Sherman is aware of the seriousness of the threat posed to the national forests in Colorado and elsewhere, having served previously as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

We hope Sherman’s fact-finding mission results in more than a promise to do something at some time in the future and we add our voice to what we hope is a chorus of support for dramatic action by the federal government to do more to responsibly manage its national forests.

Colorado’s senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, are working in Washington to get more money to deal with the depredations of the mountain pine bark beetle, with Udall most recently announcing his request that the Forest Service spend $49 million to deal with what Udall called a national emergency.

That would be on top of $30 million already allocated to work on the forests.

Udall’s characterization of the disaster that awaits the national forests in Colorado is accurate, but in saying that, it’s important to recognize the issue is complex and goes beyond merely cutting down diseased trees.

Those trees can’t simply be left in the forest to serve as kindling for a conflagration. They have to be removed and put to use. In fact, the distinctive blue stain in the lumber of beetle-killed trees has resulted in something of a market for the wood, but there is more to forest management than meeting limited wood demand for a boutique product.

By making sure the mill in Montrose has no federal impediments and in fact the cooperation of the federal agencies with which it works, Sherman and the Obama administration can do much to improve the nation’s landscape and even more for the western Colorado economy at a time when it’s sorely needed.


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