Forest health project approved in Aspen, surrounding areas

Staff report

The White River National Forest announced recently that it has approved a forest health and fuels management project that could affect lands in Pitkin County and surrounding areas.

The forest will implement vegetation management activities on 10,000 acres over the course of 15 years, with no more than 1,000 acre affected in any one year.

This project is one of a handful of forest management proposals. Three examples of thinning were identified in the decision notice for this project.

One would target previously managed stands that are now “overstocked” with young trees.

A second goal will be to thin young lodgepole pine stands that have been affected by natural disturbances such as mountain pine beetles.

A third target will be sites where regenerating subalpine fir are proliferating in areas that were previously harvested and planted with Engelmann spruce.

No thinning will occur in wilderness areas. Some of it will occur in the wildland-urban interface, where civilization meets forest.

“This decision allows us to conduct much-needed treatment in young, overstocked stands throughout the forest, including areas within the Wildland Urban Interface,” Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said in a prepared statement released Friday. “This will enhance forest health as well as maintain fuel breaks important for public and firefighter safety.”

The treatment methods will include hand crews using chainsaws and other hand-operated equipment to cut short lengths of timber that would be scattered in the forest; hand crews piling and burning slash; use of mechanical equipment to chip materials and leave it on site; and removal of slash uprooted by equipment.

The project was proposed in December 2018. The Forest Service said it took public comment and altered the project based on some of the input, such as limiting the scope of the project. The agency says it is warranted to proceed without doing a more detailed Environmental Analysis or Environmental Impact Statement.

The decision is available at