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Forest officials eye timber sale, burn

Heather McGregor

Fearing a spruce beetle infestation, the U.S. Forest Service is considering a salvage sale, bark peeling or controlled burn of the Baylor Park blowdown.

A windstorm that struck the area last Aug. 18 uprooted or snapped off Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir and aspen trees in a two-mile-wide swath on an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 acres.

Gusty winds turned ridgeline forests into an impenetrable tangle of fallen trees and root balls.

Baylor Park is in the upper reaches of Thompson Creek, accessible from Four Mile Road, southwest of the Sunlight ski area. The blowdown also hit trees in upper East Divide Creek.

Foresters fear the huge mass of dead trees, which can’t fight off an insect attack, will become a intensive breeding ground for the native beetles.

And once the beetles move through their two-year life cycle within the deadfall, they’ll take wing and attack nearby stands of healthy spruce trees, the agency said.

Dead, standing spruce in turn increase the risk of wildfire, according to the Forest Service.

These are natural cycles, but they could dramatically affect the appearance and function of the forest.

Forest Service officials plan to consider three options in an environmental impact statement, which is to be written this year. They include: No action, which allows natural cycles to continue. Offer the area for a salvage sale of the downed lumber, hiring contractors to peel, pile and burn bark, and conduct controlled burns to reduce the risk of a beetle epidemic. Also offer standing timber above the blowdown for sale. The Forest Service must also consider whether to build roads for timber harvests, and how to protect cultural resources and wetlands if a sale is held.

The agency is seeking public comment on the options and any other issues that should be studied by March 27. Work on the blowdown could begin in 2001.

Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle will make the final decision on the situation.

For more information on the Baylor Park blowdown, call Jan Spencer at the White River National Forest supervisor’s office at 945-2521.


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