Paxton sees forest health idea grow


A forest health task force, an idea generated by Wyoming House District No. 47 Representative Jerry Paxton about a year ago, is coming to fruition.

Gov. Matt Mead announced Nov. 6 he formed a task force consisting of a variety of stakeholders to develop recommendations on how Wyoming can best improve forest health.

“The health of our forests is critical to local economies in Wyoming as well as to wildlife the forests support,” Mead said in a press release. “The well-being of Wyoming’s forests requires commitment and, I believe, some new ideas.”

Co-chairs of the task force are Lisa McGee, the National Parks and Forests Program Director for the Wyoming Outdoor Council; and Jim Neiman, Vice President and CEO of Neiman Industries. Sen. Ogden Driskill and Paxton will be key leaders on the task force.

The task force will hold its first meeting Dec. 18-20 in Cheyenne.

Paxton said he had the idea to form the task force when he was still a Carbon County Commissioner.

Paxton brought the idea to the Wyoming State Legislature, and later to the governor’s office.

Paxton said he wants to focus on creating diverse populations within forests, and rethink sawmills in relation to forest health.

“A healthy forest has the diversity of age population and the best way to get that diversity is doing clear-cutting,” Paxton said.

Paxton said, by not cutting trees to maintain forest growth causes problems, including the beetle kill breakout and large, uncontrollable forest fires.

“There has always been beetle kill and we have always had an issue with that, but without the forest products industry available to take care of those when we have a situation like that and just let it go, the problem gets bigger, bigger and bigger,” Paxton said.

Paxton said the task force should take a scientific view of forest health, rather than an emotional one.

However, as of now, the task force has not set any goals.

“I don’t think we have any parameters with this task force and I think those are to be determined in our first meeting,” Paxton said.


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