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Letters to the editor

editor@vaildaily.com

I am writing in response to the “Tipsline” commentary by the self professed “gang member.” I am a former gang investigator who now resides in the Vail Valley.

These comments are typical of the mindset of the “wanna be” gang members. These individuals are typically cowards that will not speak or act with any confidence unless they are surrounded by their fellow delinquents.

The residents of this Valley need to recognize that these individuals are attempting to be the neighborhood terrorists. They take what they want through fear and intimidation. If we value our neighborhoods and our families, we need to call local law enforcement and let them do what they do best.

Keep common criminals off the streets. As a member of this community, I am not afraid to stand up for what is right. I hope my neighbors feel the same.

Rick Rigoli

Gypsum

Involvement pays off

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Eagle-Vail citizens involved with the physical improvements committee of the Eagle-Vail Property Owners Association. Thanks to their vision and willingness to become involved in the planning process, Eagle-Vail will begin realizing some long needed improvements, most notably a separated pedestrian-bicycle path adjacent to Highway 6.

A special thank you to former EVPOA Board President Brian O’Reilly and ECO Trails’ Ellie Caryl, who were instrumental in helping with the planning process long before this project was considered by any other entities.

I would also like to congratulate Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone, Eagle County Engineer Helen Migchelbrink, Colorado Department of Transportation Engineer Keith Powers, the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District and the developers of the Village at Avon for committing to funding or otherwise facilitating this project. Although it was not mentioned in the newspaper article, the Eagle-Vail Property Owners Association also committed to funding a small portion of the original construction costs, but more importantly, to funding future maintenance costs associated with this path.

It is my sincere hope that this is only the beginning of more collaborative efforts to address and resolve issues associated with growth in this valley that affect unincorporated areas such as Eagle-Vail.

Brian Donaldson

EVPOA Board Treasurer

EVPOA Physical Improvements Chair

Don’t repeat error

My name is Malin Johnsdotter-Zeltman and I live on Sierra Trail in West Vail. I have been here since 1986 and I work as an ski instructor in the wintertime. I am only a resident of the USA, so I cannot vote. But I have paid taxes here in Vail and Colorado since 1986.

Now when I have chosen to live full time here in beautiful but noisy Vail, I am really concerned about the future of my home town. I want guests come to Vail and feel as they have come to small, friendly village where everything is in lesser scale than the big cities most of our guests come from.

Therefore, I am writing you about my concern about the height and scale of Middle Creek. We all know Lionshead and we all recognize the problem with Lionshead – how big the buildings are, how ugly the whole Lionshead is. Please think about that when you decide to build another complex of six-story buildings in the heart and at the entrance of our mountain village, where I want my skiing guests to feel as they are in the mountains far away from the stress at home. Compare Vail with other European ski resorts as Zermatt, Argentiere, and you have the picture.

I am not against affordable housing. I am one that would have needed it. I am just against the big scale of Middle Creek as the first thing our guests, who are the providers for us to be able to live and work here, should see when they come to Vail.

Please do not repeat the mistakes from Lionshead.

Malin Johnsdotter-Zeltman

Boy is he off

I was appalled when I read the letter titled “A Scorcher” from Mr. Howell in the paper a few days ago. It inspired me to respond out of fear valley residents would take this letter for truth.

Yes, wildfires have been rampant this year, and loss of property and lives are a tragedy. And yes, bad forest management policies are largely the root of these fires. However, to continue this dispute with the flawed argument that it these policies are the fault of environmentalists does a huge disservice toward those who are trying to turn this problem around and to the general public who is bombarded with lies and half-truths.

In the end, this type of letter and thinking will steer the public away from supporting policies that will actually make a difference in saving homes and possibly lives.

Roads in forests are not “natural,” perhaps other than game trails. Mr. Howell claims that foresters once built roads to act as firebreaks. He also infers that due to environmentalists, this practice is no longer allowed, at the risk of the forest. According to Forest Service studies, however, 80 percent of fires in Western forests start in areas with roads. That to me sounds like a good argument for roadless areas. In fact, in research from the development of the roadless rule, the Forest Service found that fires are twice as likely to occur in previously roaded and logged areas than in large roadless areas. In other words, fires are caused by human activity.

The decades of the Forest Service’s successful fire suppression policy have increased the fire risks to people and the environment. Commercial logging and clear cutting has also greatly contributed to these risks. Larger, old-growth trees are more fire-resistant, provide shade, moisture and cooler air, all of which help reduce the threat of fire and reduce its severity when it eventually happens. Logged areas leave hazardous fuels and are rarely maintained to control the prolific growth of flammable small trees, brush, and invasive weeds. The ground becomes drier and hotter, and creates a more dangerous environment when a fire breaks out. In fact, according to veteran wildland firefighters, the most effective place to fight a fire is a mature forest. They also claim a logged area is one of the most dangerous areas to fight a fire today.

Mr. Howell, I hope Udall is re-elected. He is our best chance to deal realistically and environmentally-mindedly with this enormous problem. He and Joel Hefley have offered bipartisan legislation to ensure dangerous fuel reduction activities are specifically focused in at risk communities before other fuel reduction efforts are undertaken. In other words, provide help where help is desperately needed, instead of focusing on “thinning” (read: logging) in an area miles away from the communities at risk. Forest Service research shows that the best investment for reducing fire risks to homes and communities involves reducing flammable material in the immediate 100-200 feet surrounding a home or structure. Firefighters claim that creating a defensible space for them depends on prudent thinning of small trees and underbrush for a maximum of a one-third of a mile radius around structures. Thinning beyond the structure’s immediate vicinity has little effect on structure ignitions. This means commercial logging (which Bush’s “Healthy Forests Initiative” will open the door to) in the backcountry is neither an effective or an efficient means of protecting homes or providing defensible space for firefighters. Rep. Scott McInnis has also thrown his hat into the ring with an initiative much like that of George W. Bush.

To respond to Mr. Howell’s claim that the Sierra Club has an “unreasonable and dangerous “zero-cut’ policy that bans ALL forest thinning,” well, that is an outright lie. I went to the Sierra Club’s Web site and got lots of good information. What they do believe in are summed up in these points:

n Protecting communities should be the Forest Services’ number one priority. To this end, reducing fuels in the Community Protections Zone (the first 500 meters out from buildings) should be the focus of personnel and funding.

n Carrying out immediately the majority of fuel reduction projects in Community Protection Zones that raise no significant environmental issues.

n Restoring fire’s natural role. Prescribed burns (during advantageous weather) can help to reduce fuel buildup and restore healthy forest habits. They are also less intense, less severe and generally produce less smoke and particulates than a wildfire. Every dollar spent on prescribed burning saves seven dollars on fighting large fires later. Experiences in many states during past fire seasons have shown that large wildfires dramatically lose their intensity when they reach areas where prescribed fires have been conducted.

n Once efforts have been made to reduce home ignitability, other efforts may be made to thin small-diameter trees and brush in high-risk and fire-prone areas directly adjacent to communities. (They do not have “zero-cut” policy – they believe in conservative thinning where it will make a legitimate difference.)

n Protecting ancient and wild forests from logging and logging roads. Eighty percent of fires in western forests start in areas with roads. Focusing around the Community Protection Zones will produce quicker, more necessary results and produces less controversy.

n Stopping attacks on forest protection safeguards. The public needs to be able to participate in decision-making, period.

A popular argument against environmentalists and environmental laws is that public input brings lawsuits and appeals and ties the hands of the Forest Service to accomplish results. This just is not true and is terribly flawed argument. According to the General Accounting Office, only 1 percent of Forest Service hazardous fuels reduction projects in the fiscal year 2001 were administratively appealed and none were litigated. The Forest Service does not need Bush’s new initiative to reduce hazardous fuels. It has ample authority and discretion in the laws currently on the books to clear away the flammable brush and thickets of small trees that threaten communities, such as ours. In fact, the GAO has confirmed that it is almost unheard of for environmental groups to oppose legitimate fuel reduction projects. What they do oppose is shutting out the public in regards to input on these projects, giving logging companies carte blanche to “thin” old-growth forests far away from communities at risk, and the cutting of the National Fire Plan budget then using these logging revenues to fund necessary hazardous fuel reduction projects.

Kerala Woodworth

Avon


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