Redefining Beauty

In the Methow Valley in North Central Washington State, the US Forest Service is “redefining what beauty means,” as Phil Brick, professor at Whitman College says. Staff with the Forest Service, including Matt Ellis, Dan Robinson, and Mike Borowski work in the field of forest management. They employ a variety of techniques in effort to prevent the destructive impacts of wildfires throughout the Pasayten and Sawtooth wilderness areas in a region with a scarred past of increasingly frequent fires. Common practices include logging, controlled burning, and ladder fuel reduction (in which the lowest, most at-risk branches on trees are burned off), which all aim to prevent spreading of fire. Looking at a sparse hillside in Cub Creek, the men see a logging job well done. In comparison to lush forests on the surrounding peaks, it’s hard to see this area as a prime example of healthy and beautiful. To be able to see its beauty, one must know that the dense, fire-prone forests commonly idealized as untouched nature in the public eye do not usually resemble historic lands unaltered by human behavior. What these men do is try their best not to stop fire completely, but to create the environment of their described “ideal world,” one in which the effects of climate change and resulting fire dangers are mitigated.