Forest health task force gets underway

Dec 23, 2013

The Governor’s new Forest Health Task Force met for the first time last week, and faced some challenges right off the bat -- namely, defining what forest health means.

Jessica Crowder is with the governor’s policy office. She says the 19-person group struggled to come to an agreement on the subject.

“There’s a lot of different viewpoints on what a healthy forest actually looks like, and how you actually get there," Crowder says. "What we found is that the term ‘forest health’ is a very value-laden term.”

In his address to the Task Force, Governor Matt Mead pointed to aggressively managed forests as the healthiest in the state and asked the task force to consider that model. But he said he’s willing to listen to whatever recommendations the task force comes up with -- so long as they come up with something. 

In an address to the Task Force, he said it’s become clear that current management practices aren’t working.

“When the federal government says ‘we’re spending too much fighting fires, we’re struggling’ -- let’s view what you all are doing here as an opportunity to not only to say ‘here’s what we’re doing in Wyoming’ but ‘here’s what can be done in the west, here’s what can be done with forest health nationwide.’ And I think we can, you all can, set up a standard on how we’re going to be proactive.”

He asked the task force to address three themes in their upcoming meetings: wildfires and other disturbances, forest management and economic opportunities.

The task force will present its recommendations to the governor by the end of 2014.