Beetle-kill tree removal proposed near Starwood | AspenTimes.com

Beetle-kill tree removal proposed near Starwood

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The U.S. Forest Service wants to remove 3,000 trees that have been killed or infested by beetles near the Starwood subdivision outside of Aspen.

The project is being eyed on about 251 acres in Trentaz and Gavin gulches, west of Red Mountain and about 3 miles north of Aspen.

“The majority of timber harvesting will occur in the first year, removing approximately 2,200 dead trees and 200 trees infested with mountain pine beetle,” Aspen District Ranger Scott Snelson writes in a letter mailed this week to potentially interested parties. Dead, subalpine fir and dead Engelman spruce trees would also be removed.

The goal is to reduce fuels near Starwood, an exclusive subdivision with multimillion-dollar homes on the edge of the White River National Forest, and to remove pine beetle brood trees. The Forest Service also wants to lower the density in tree stands and further diversify tree ages. The project will benefit elk by creating winter range habitat, according to the Forest Service.

“Timber fellers would walk into the project area and hand-fall all trees that are to be removed,” Snelson’s letter says. “The trees would then be flown via helicopter to a landing site on private property, where they would be removed by the timber purchaser.

“Helicopter logging operations would occur in the spring prior to beetle flight and may last for three to five weeks in the first year and one week in subsequent years,” the letter continues.

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No temporary or permanent roads would be created. In addition to removing trees, the project’s scope includes applying a chemical called verbenone on living trees to make them less attractive to beetles, and planting pine, spruce and fir saplings if natural regeneration fails.

If the project is approved, logging operations and other activity could start as early as May 2011. The amount of work would decline sharply after the first year and potentially cease after a few years, depending on beetle activity.

The proposal was developed by the Forest Service in collaboration with Starwood and the National Forest Foundation. The Forest Service is seeking public comment. An open house on the plan will be held at the El Jebel Community Center on Thursday, Dec. 16, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Additional information about the project is available from Travis Bruch of the Forest Service at 970-625-6849.

Comments on the project should be submitted by Dec. 31. They should include the name of individuals or organizations and a contact number, the title “Starwood Fuels Project” and specific facts supporting the position.

Comments can be mailed to Travis Bruch, 0094 County Road 244, Rifle, CO 81650; or they can be e-mailed to wrnf_scoping_comments@fs.fed.us, with Starwood Fuels Project in the subject line.