If you’ve ever wondered why the Forest Service is short on money, wonder no more. A fascinating series in the Los Angles Times puts it on the line.
Yes, the USFS is spending a Pharaoh’s ransom on firefighting. More, a veritable fire hose of money sluiced on wildfires has become the economic sugar daddy for everything from whole towns, to small contractors with one pickup truck and water tank.
Simply amazing. The info in this series of articles will make you weep next time you see a campground slated for closure, or a rotting trailhead sign that hasn’t been replaced due to a staffing shortage.
Who to blame? It’s the job of the USFS to battle fires — not much they can do internally to change that, though they do have some discretion on what they let burn and what they fight. What we probably need is a shift in public thinking, this followed by smart lawmaking (oxymoron?) that requires better forest management (also known as logging and controlled burns). More, where homes exist in wildland fire regions, we appear to need much stricter requirements on fire resistant construction and defensible space. If none of the above, then spending $1.37 BILLION dollars a year (as was thrown to the flames in 2007), will continue to drain the USFS.
Summer skiing is alive and well. Folks in the Northwest do it more than they talk about it, as finding summer turns is easy when you’ve got a wet and scrappy climate. In the desiccated middle mountains of the continent we tend to talk about it more than we do it, but we do have our moments. They get it in the Tetons, and down here in Colorado we have our glory at places such as Montezuma Basin.
What’s terrific about Montezuma Basin is you can drive a jeep trail to snow. One reason this sublime road exists is it provides access to a parcel of private land that’s used as a parking area and crossed by most people who ski or climb in the area. Looks like a land swap might give this to the public. Good? We don’t know. Apparently no formal easement exists for public use of this land, so conveying it to public ownership would solve that problem. BUT, once the road only accesses public land it could easily be slated for closure. Catch 22?
I’ll go on record by saying that Montezuma Basin Road is one of Colorado’s most enjoyable and stupendous tracks. Not only is it a historical resource, but it provides perfectly situated access to all manner of recreation that would otherwise require a lengthy approach hike. (There, now when the planners Google it, perhaps they’ll see this and it’ll get ’em thinking.)
In news of mountain trials and tribulations, I ran across this report that one of New Zealand’s leading mountain and ski guides has died of a heart attack while on a hut trip with the country’s Prime Minister. Also, more about the K2 tragedy in this first person account: climbers screaming as they fall to their death, others bare footed and dangling in a web of tangled ropes…