The views just south of Nederland in the west Magnolia area aren't what they used to be. The buzz of machinery rises above the ridge.
"Just the sound makes my heart sink," Hillary Stevenson said.
Stevenson has a great appreciation for what makes Colorado beautiful. She owns the Sundance Café. The patio of her place overlooks a gorgeous view of the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest. It is also in the direct line of sight of the big machines that are clearing away parts of the forest.
Stevenson sees it as disruption and destruction.
"They are killing so many trees," she said.
The Forest Service calls it protection.
"It is vital that we do what we can with the time we have," Elsha Kirby, a spokesperson for the US Forest Service, said. "We are trying to reduce the risk of intense fires in and around
The community of Nederland, Colorado understands fire danger. They've lived through it. Stevenson, like most of her neighbors, was forced out of their homes because of fires.
"When the Boulder fire started we didn't have much time to pack up," Stevenson said.
Machines with hot saws are taking out clumps of trees. Many of the trees are infested with pine beetles. They are already dead or dying. But because of the type of pine trees, lodge pole pine, there are green trees that have to come down too.
The trees don't thrive unless they are in groupings. This strategy also creates what amounts to a fire break area within the forest.
"If a fire does start, these open areas allow firefighters in and give them a chance to get some real work done." Kirby said.
"The risk of a fire in a specific area seems to be low, but the risk of it getting out of control and damaging resources and homes and lives is very high."
Our state saw its two most destructive fires burn through High Park and Waldo Canyon this summer.
There is a new study showing there are seven times as many fires raging across western states as there were 40 years ago. This year, 8.6 million acres were lost across the west.
Nobody is arguing the problem. Nobody wants a repeat of the summers. The Forest Service says this is the answer. Locals say it is too extreme.
"I've been here 40 years and I've never seen anything like it," Victoria Bingham said.
The same thing is happening near her ranch about 10 miles away. She concedes that mitigation is needed.
"As far as I'm concerned, it is the wrong mitigation," she said. "Around here we thin between the trees we don't make ski slopes through them."
The Forest Service says anyone who remembers this summer will understand the critical need to make the forest safer.
The plan was put into place in 2009. If you'd like to see the full plan go to: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/westmagnolia
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