How we can use logging, fire, and grazing to create healthy forests in Colorado

This video describes how forests in the west can be healthier with very selective logging practices, periodic small fires, and strategic livestock grazing. With all the hype out there about fires being set by ranchers and loggers in South America, we thought we better get our voice in the mix. We shot this video last spring. In the video, we talk about how fire, ranching and logging can be good for an forest ecosystem in the west.

Many of the forests in Colorado, especially at lower elevations, are Ponderosa Pine. A pine forest in the western US is very different than the leafy maples and oaks of the north eastern US and certainly different than the rain forests of Brazil. A healthy rain forest very seldom burns, but if it did due to lightning, it would not get very big on its own. Western forests have developed for centuries in very different climate. The west as a whole is a semi arid, dry environment that is very prone to fire. As a result, Ponderosa and other pines and grasslands are very much evolved to proliferate wildly due to the effects of frequent small grass fires caused by lightning. When we limit fire and allow grasses and trees to be overgrown and dense, we end up with massive uncontrollable fires that wipe out tens of thousands of acres. In the past grazing animals and natural small fires kept the grasslands in forests in balance and very healthy. Large uncontrollable fires were a much more rare event in the past. As a rancher we can use cattle and pastured pigs to mimic the effects of fire and wildlife grazing. Large herd's of bison, elk and deer once kept grasses greener longer, healthier and at less density. We can use cows and sheep to get this same effect. Few people know that a pastured pig is also a great tool to mimic the effects of fire, as they thin the numbers of baby trees and root the dense fire prone needle layers into the earth. Logging in the past was an all or nothing clear cut, but nowadays we know much more than we did then. On our ranch, we are very selective on what trees get cut and which do not. As a result, when the logging is done, the forest mimics a park like look that is very resilient to fire, thick with green plants on the forest floor, and thriving with life from the soil to the sky.

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