Basin Recreation Responds to Petition Calling for an End to Forest Health Project
A change.org petition has been circulating in the community in opposition to the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District’s Forest Health and Fuels Reduction Project in Summit Park and currently has over 350 signatures.
The petition begins with “thank you for caring about the forest in Summit Park.”
The organizers of the petition claim Basin Recreation’s Forest Health and Fuels Reduction Project was sold to the public in bad faith and current work by Basin Recreation crews have cut down “old growth” trees in the area. They say the project has done little to actually mitigate wildfire risk in Summit Park.
The petition demands Basin Recreation cease cutting down live trees and insists a vote be taken by the community before any future removal of live trees occurs.
Jessica Kirby is the Open Space Management Supervisor at Basin Recreation and told KPCW the petition’s organizers are mistaken.
“The district’s guidelines are strictly adhered to in this project,” Kirby said. “We are not cutting old growth trees out of Summit Park. There is a situation in our shaded fuel break area that we are adhering to the guidelines where some large trees have been taken out, but the petition also shows a photograph of a tree that was damaged during our windstorm last week and, unfortunately, that tree and another one next to it, the crown tops had broken and we had to take those out for public safety. I think that’s what really started the petition and it’s a very emotional topic and that is expressed very deeply in that petition.”
Kirby told KPCW in August that Basin Recreation was accepting public comment on the project and held a public meeting on the fire mitigation efforts on August 27th. She said although crews only got to work this month, the project itself started five years ago.
“This started in 2015 and has been something that we’ve been studying with the conservation easement holder of Summit Park, which is the Utah Forestry and State Lands Department,” she said. “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with their state forester, with the local fire authorities, with the county. We’ve gone to county council in 2019 projecting this project. It’s been something we’ve been talking about for a long time.”
According to Basin Recreation, the project will be removing what are called “hazard trees” in order to promote the overall health of the forest and reduce the amount of potential fuel in the event there ever was a wildfire in the area. Hazard trees can be both living or dead and tree removals will be done in close consultation with the Utah Forestry, Fire, and State Lands Department. The project will begin in Summit Park and has plans to expand to the surrounding land in the coming years.
Kirby said another misconception is the size of tree that is being targeted. She said Basin Recreation crews will not be removing trees with trunks larger than 10 inches in diameter. Any trees removed larger than 10 inches are either damaged and present a health risk or meet specific criteria laid out by the Utah Forestry, Fire, and State Lands Department.
Jason Curry is the department’s public information officer and said Basin Recreation’s project is essential for the cleanup of overgrowth in the forest and reducing the risk of a potentially devastating wildfire.
“Think of it as kind of like a garden,” he explained. “If you don’t thin your garden, there’s going to be problems, there’s going to be too much material. In a forest environment, not only is that going to mean lower forest health and species like douglas fir and everything else that wildlife depends on can’t thrive, but there’s also a huge wildfire danger.”
Curry said forest management efforts like the one in Summit Park will actually favor old growth trees and allow for them to become healthier in the long term. He added the use of hand crews for the clearing as opposed to large machinery greatly reduces the risk of erosion as well.
Basin Recreation’s Forest Health and Fuels Reduction Project is slated to continue in Summit Park until at least next week.
More information on the project can be found here.