I spent much of the summer in the mountains of Colorado surrounded by trees. At nine thousand feet, the air is thin but crisp (most of the time) and time seems to move more slowly (or was that just me navigating life without oxygen?). The trees tower 80 feet or more and peaks touch the sky at over 11,000 feet, dwarfing the human perspective.
Woodlands have managed to survive for ions without assistance from humans. Fire and wind and drought are all part of a cycle that may run for decades and longer.
But when humans venture into the forests and build structures and invest in decks and communication systems, the forest requires “management.” Trees burn. They can fall and crush buildings and cars. Insurance companies don’t like them much and this dislike is reflected in premiums. More recently, insurance hasn’t even been available except on a high-risk basis.
Forest management is often justified in terms of fire mitigation. The theory is that if the highly flammable and densely packed conifers are removed, the forest will be repopulated with aspen and other species that don’t burn as readily or as hot. Aspen are also pretty and attract leaf-peepers.
We are a creative lot and have invented some machines to make management efficient and speedy. This beast looks like something out of Star Wars, but can take down a hundred-year-old tree in just a few minutes.
The results are hard to comprehend. It's hard to imagine what this will look like in a few years. We can only hope that nature can heal the wounds inflicted upon it, even with good intentions.
With insurance rates doubling and having a tree fall on our cabin a few years ago, we made the tough decision to remove some of the trees up-wind from the cabin. The tree eater used to manage the forest was too big for our purposes so we hired a man who trimmed trees the old fashion way – from the top down.
There is a small silver lining to this story. I mean, I suppose the cabin is at less risk from being crushed by a spruce or a fir tree. But that’s not the best part.
We are fortunate to be around people who are committed to helping those in need. The McGrady Foundation (https://www.themcgradyfoundation.org) is one such organization that provides resources to the needy, including firewood!. Some of the wood from the tree removal project will provide heat to a native American home this winter.
Please add The McGrady Foundation to your list of organizations to contribute to. They work at the ground level, eye to eye with real people. They make a difference and so can you.