Forest honcho outlines threats

The public misconceptions promoted by the media are a far cry from the actual threats to the country’s national forests, according to a top forestry official.

“What the public thinks and what professionals think are the biggest threats to our forests are two different things. The idea that the Bush administration and the national forest industry is selling out to the timber industry is just not true,” said Jack Troyer, the Intermountain regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service.

Troyer spoke to a small crowd Wednesday afternoon in the S.J. Quinney College of Law about the threats to America’s national forests as part of the Green Bag Lecture Series.

“I think our national forests are absolutely under siege,” Troyer said.

With nine regions and 191 million acres of national forest land across the country, forests account for 10 percent of the country’s land, Troyer said. Troyer laid out what he perceived to be the four major threats to national forest preservation and growth.

Catastrophic fire, the control of invasive foliage, unmanaged recreation and habitat fragmentation are the red flags for forests, Troyer said.

Troyer said that of the total acreage of U.S. forests, about 70 million acres pose the biggest threat as a wildfire hot spot, including the Ponderosa Pine Forests in the Colorado Plateau.

“We don’t have a chance to suppress a fire in an area like that,” Troyer said.

The introduction of invasive weeds and other forms of plant life into a forest’s ecological system could wreak havoc on certain animal populations that depend on certain types of vegetation to survive, he said.

Troyer also spoke to the threat posed by unmanaged recreational activities, such as the use of off-road vehicles on undesignated trails.”There are tens of thousands of these machines along the Wasatch Front every day, and we need to find a way to keep them on roads and trails and off sensitive areas,” Troyer said.

Finally, the fragmentation of habitats, due to urban expansion and closure of ranches along the Intermountain region, is something to watch for, he said. “Every time a ranch goes out of business, a new community of homes is created. I would say the worst-run cattle ranch is xbetter than the best asphalt parking lot,” Troyer said. He also took time to answer critics and respond to skepticism he says certain people harbor toward the forest service.

“I can tell you what the threats aren’t is unbridled logging and road building…a lot of our time and resources are being taken up by regional lawsuits and appeals, and that’s not where the answer lies,” he said.

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