Nov 7, 2013 - By Mead Gruver, The Associated PressCHEYENNE -- Gov. Matt Mead has named a diverse panel representing the timber products industry, government and environmentalists to examine how to improve the health of Wyoming's forests and report back with recommendations by next fall.
Mead said he wants the 19-person group to recommend ways to prevent wildfires and reduce their severity. He also seeks recommendations for innovation in the timber industry.
"The health of our forests is critical to local economies in Wyoming as well as to wildlife the forests support," he said in a release Wednesday.
The task force is to meet for the first time before the end of this year and report back with recommendations by next fall.
Lisa McGee with the Wyoming Outdoor Council and Jim Neiman of timber products company Neiman Enterprises are co-chairs. Other task force members include Wyoming Stock Growers Association Vice President Jim Magagna, National Outdoor Leadership School Sustainability Director Aaron Bannon; Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Scott Talbot, and Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser.
What constitutes a healthy forest means different things to different people, and the task force will try to approach that question without preconceived notions, Crapser said.
"I think that's part of the good work this task force can do is have that discussion, what are we really talking about with healthy forests?" he said.
An inevitable topic will be the beetle epidemic that has killed hundreds of square miles of Wyoming forests over the past decade or so. One question will be what to do now that the beetles have killed so many pine trees that the epidemic is slowing down.
"This is thinking about how to move forward and solidify the health of the forests," Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said.
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