As winter weather drives more people indoors, it’s time to note that there’s been good progress made lately on Colorado’s natural resources issues. There’s a long ways to go before we are protecting our watersheds with healthier forests, but federal and state policies are going through some changes that will head us in that direction.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recently announced that it is expanding the federal-state partnership, known as Good Neighbor Authority, to increase state management efforts on federal lands. This is recognition that states do have a positive role to play in mitigating wildfire risk and improving forest health on federal lands. This will be done in a collaborative way with the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) and the trend to utilize state agencies for forest treatments is also being followed in Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas.
I’m gratified to see the USFS head in this direction, as, clearly, the status quo was not working. Good forest management doesn’t benefit from the misguided premise that natural resources, such as forests and watersheds, follow political boundaries. Instead, we need to work on a more ecologically sound and commonsense basis and follow natural boundaries.
The Gold King Mine spill into the Animas River above Silverton provides another example of how following political boundaries is much too limited a field of vision when dealing with natural resources challenges. As the mine sludge crossed municipalities, counties, tribal lands and states, the Animas and San Juan rivers followed their own timetable and geographical course, paying no attention to which entity was attempting to deal with the sludge affecting the various constituencies.