Forest Service OKs ‘salvage logging’ north of Silverthorne
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. – The U.S. Forest Service has given the OK for a forest-health logging project north of Silverthorne that will clear away dead and dying trees in one of the areas hardest hit by the mountain pine-beetle epidemic.
The project’s aim is to reduce future wildfire risk created by dead, fallen trees and to jump-start forest regeneration in the wake of the beetle’s devastation. The project area includes 4,012 acres of White River National Forest lands along Highway 9 from Sierra Bosque (near Silverthorne) to Spring Creek, a few miles north of Green Mountain Reservoir.
“We’re trying to accelerate the beginning of the new forest and make sure it’s got a really good start,” said Dillon Ranger District’s Peech Keller.
The northern part of Summit County has so far suffered the worst infestation by the pine beetle. The insect makes its home in lodgepole pines, killing them in the process. Lodgepoles are the most common tree species in Summit County’s forests. In areas around Ute Pass, near the Grand County border, lodgepole mortality has reached as high as 99 percent.
If mountain pine-beetle populations continue to escalate, up to 90 percent of mature lodgepole pine on both federal and non-federal lands in Summit County are expected to die within the next three to five years. The logging project won’t halt the beetle’s continued spread throughout the forest, but it will reduce fire danger, according to Forest Service officials.
“As these stands deteriorate and the trees fall over, high volumes of fuels on the ground can create conditions potentially leading to large-scale wildfire with high-severity, high-intensity fire behavior,” said Jan Burke, forest health coordinator for the White River National Forest.
Such a fire would sterilize the soil, thwarting new growth.
Furthermore, still-standing trees have economic value as timber.
“When they’re fallen and rotten, they’re totally unmarketable, and there’s no way we can get them,” Keller said.
USFS collaborated on the project’s design with town and county governments, local fire departments, homeowner associations and landowners.
“The collaboration has resulted in a project that has wide community support,” district ranger Jan Cutts said. “We are very concerned about improving our ability to protect property and ensure the safety of the public and our firefighters.”
Logging could start some time this summer; Forest Service crews, private contractors and landowners could each potentially perform the salvage work. After logging, the Forest Service will survey project lands periodically for seedling growth. If, after five years, seedlings have not taken root on their own, the agency will plant trees.
“What it looks like will depend on what’s there now. If there are aspen, spruce, fir trees or young pine trees, it will actually look pretty good. In any case, it will be green in a few years,” Keller said.
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