My Turn

Opinion: Thin the forests to save the trees

By Hart Allex, Peñasco
Posted 11/20/18

In the wake of another year of California's disastrous forest management results, I have a few comments. We have been thinning our forest here on Llano de la Yegua in Northern New Mexico since 1987 …

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My Turn

Opinion: Thin the forests to save the trees

Posted

In the wake of another year of California's disastrous forest management results, I have a few comments.

We have been thinning our forest here on Llano de la Yegua in Northern New Mexico since 1987. It is a monumental job that does not get accomplished without an incredible amount of time, money, energy and commitment. Our ponderosa forest needs to have around 85 percent of the trees taken out to return it to the tree density numbers nature had before humans screwed up the plan.

When I tell people, seeing our work for the first time, that we are removing 85 percent of our trees, the response is always comical. But the effort needed to cut trees, burn the branches and remove the wood is way beyond comical.

In the early years, we were lucky to accomplish two or three acres each year. Now we are thinning around 50 acres a year. With over 250 acres in the mostly completed stage, the reforestation makeover completely changes the landscape.

Now, instead of dense almost impenetrable thickets of spindly, sick, insect- and disease-infested trees, we have open parklike views of individual trees surrounded by grass and shrubs. The tree ring growth rates tell the tale.

An eighth of an inch or less is what the trees were growing in the past. After thinning, we have three-eighths to half an inch of tree ring growth a year. It is amazing what an increase in sunlight and water can do for tree health.

Can government accomplish this job? Sure, if enough public pressure is put on our politicians. In very small amounts, here and there, it is being done.

But almost the entire western forest needs some type of treatment. The enviro-promoted policy of putting out all small ground fires during good weather and canceling all forest logging is not a management plan.

The forest is constantly producing more fuel. Regular, natural ground fires, burning through the grass, is what kept tree numbers and fuel under control by eliminating the majority of seedlings and dead brush before it became a problem.

Logging can pay part of the cost for reforestation. My sales (thousands of truckloads) provide about 75 percent of what it takes.

We use wood to heat our houses in Northern New Mexico. If the Forest Service allowed people to take all the wood they wanted, still not enough would be removed to "fix" the forest.

And failed Forest Service policies certainly don't allow for unlimited local usage. Mountains grow trees by "catching" the passing moisture besides filling our acequias and reservoirs.

Trees produce wood. We use wood for many things. Beats wasting it in nightmare fires that destroy the habitat and watershed, not to mention houses, cities and lives.

Is there a problem here? People caused this problem; people need to fix it. The animals and trees will thank us.

Hart Allex restores forest on his land near Peñasco.

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