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Cutting edge of forest fight: Chain-saw environmentalism
Is active management best, or is it futile to fight nature?

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Those stricter protections are what the Pitkin County Commission, based in Aspen, requested in its official comments to the agency, and it's a popular stand among lots of politicians in ski country. But Fitzwilliams has been trying to change minds.

"I've joked with the Town Council that they need to change [Aspen's] name to Spruce-Fir," he said.

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'Hidden Gems'

Beyond ecology, Fitzwilliams said, there's an economy and a people at stake.

West central Colorado's wilds are interwoven with a string of ski resorts, highways, electric lines and forested homes. Further limitations on tree thinning would risk catastrophic fire.

Those are fears that many wilderness lovers share, and they accept logging around the edges to improve safety. But many also push not just for more roadless protections, but also for new congressionally designated wilderness areas to limit most man-made disturbances.

They're pushing a campaign called "Hidden Gems" to expand wilderness areas by 342,000 acres in this part of Colorado, effectively moving the protected zones farther downhill into areas considered important winter range for wildlife.

Outdoor photographer Steven DeWitt, of Eagle County, Colo., is a hiking and snowboarding enthusiast who holds wildlands dear. He sees the need for action near towns and highways, he said, but "what we've got for wilderness now is all we've got left."

The pine forest's rapid decline saddened DeWitt to the point that he has been shooting photos since 2007 for a planned online essay that he hopes will motivate Americans to deal with climate change. But in the backcountry, he prefers to see forests regenerate on their own.

Chain-saw environmentalism isn't for him. Rooting around in wild places sets a precedent.

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"It's a bad cocktail," he said of Forest Service hopes for logging the roadless areas. "Everybody's good intentions before anything is cut are great, but a road in a wilderness is a bad idea."


Twitter: @brandonloomis

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