The Saratoga Sun -

Governor's Task Force on Forests to meet in Saratoga

An overall look at forest management is topic of discussion


The third meeting for the Governor’s Task Force on Forests will be held in Saratoga next Tuesday to cover overall forest management.

The three-day meeting, held April 8-10, will feature discussions at the Platte Valley Community Center and a tour of the Saratoga sawmill, Saratoga Forest Management.

The Governor’s Task Force on Forests was an idea generated by State Representative Jerry Paxton, and consists of a variety of stakeholders to develop recommendations on how Wyoming can best improve forest health.

Next week’s meeting at the PVCC is facilitated by the Ruckelshaus Institute, a division of the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, which advances the understanding and resolution of complex environmental and natural resource challenges.

“We will be discussing is how we might further engage industry in managing the forest,” Paxton said. “We certainly want to support mills, and we need to look beyond that to see what we can do to continue to remove hazard trees, clear some areas and have a viable industry. We have a pretty diverse group with a lot of different folks who have environmental and wildlife concerns.”

The force held its first official meeting in Cheyenne last December, and followed up with a second meeting in Lander that took place in March. State forester Bill Crapser said the topic for next week’s meeting is an overall look at forest management.

“We have a whole bunch of different issues that we cover with a different topic at each meeting,” Crapser said. “At the last meeting our topic was fire disturbance, and for the meeting after this one Saratoga, it will be economic development and potential. The meeting is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and Ruckelshaus is doing the facilitation and running the meetings.”

The Governor’s Task Force was an idea generated by Paxton last year, while he was still a Carbon County Commissioner, and brought to the Wyoming State Legislature and Governor’s Office.

Paxton said he wanted to focus on creating diverse populations within forests, and rethink saw mills in relations to forest health. He also said that by not cutting trees to maintain forest growth causes problems, such as large forest fires and beetle kill breakout.

“We’ve been interested in trying to do something here for a long time, and we were concerned about beetle kill,” Paxton said. “When I was a commissioner I also approached the National Resources Committee, and asked them to see if they were interested in sponsoring a task force on forest health. We had an initial meeting in November to figure out the composition of the task force.”

Paxton said the discussion portions of the three-day meeting are open to the local public.

“We welcome all people to attend the meetings, and we’ll get a public comment section in there someplace,” he said. “Everyone is encouraged to attend, and we like to have input from locals, especially in an area like this where there’s such a high interest in what happens in our forest. There will be a tour of the mill for task force members on Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m.”

Paxton said there may be a following tour, which includes members of the public, on Friday.

“We’re looking at trying to set something up on the 10th for folks who want to go up into the forest and look at what’s going on around here,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how much interest there, and we might go into the area up by Encampment.”

The three-day meeting begins at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Platte Valley Community Center, and will adjourn at noon Thursday. All members of the public are welcome for the discussions.


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