Forester says aspen logging wouldn’t be visible from road | AspenTimes.com

Forester says aspen logging wouldn’t be visible from road

A proposal to remove 300 to 400 aspen trees from upper Castle Creek Valley wouldn’t create as much of a visual disaster as it probably sounds, according to the head of the U.S. Forest Service in Aspen.

Nevertheless, Aspen District Ranger Jim Upchurch said he will give thorough consideration to making Holy Cross Electric bury the power line.

“The decision hasn’t been made to do anything in particular,” said Upchurch. It is “possible but not probable” that a decision will be made in time to allow the power company to do any work this year, he said.

Holy Cross wants to remove the aspens from around its aerial line south, or upvalley, from Ashcroft. Trees deemed to be a high hazard of falling into the line will be removed along a 1.5-mile stretch. All aspen trees that could fall would be removed along a 1,200-foot segment, according to Forest Service documents.

The power line is regularly broken by falling trees, so the issue is one of maintenance, according to a Forest Service summary on the proposal. “Many of the trees to be cut have root rot and display dieback in their crowns,” the summary said.

None of the work would be visible from Castle Creek Road, Upchurch said. He estimated the power line is a quarter mile off the road. The view of the power line area where work is proposed is shielded from the road by younger, healthy stands of aspen with occasional breaks where meadows exist.

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Leaf peepers on the road wouldn’t notice the disturbance, Upchurch stressed. Castle Creek Valley is popular, particularly in fall, with sightseers in motor vehicles and cyclists.

Upchurch said the visual impact will still weigh into his decision. However, it would be a bigger issue if the targeted area was visible from the road, he said.

Cross-country skiers at Ashcroft Ski Touring would see the work around the power line. The swath would be about as wide as a ski run, according to Upchurch.

Visible or not, the line is within a scenic portion of the White River National Forest, Upchurch noted. Thus, the Forest Service must consider whether it would be best to make Holy Cross bury the line.

Holy Cross officials told the Aspen Daily News that burying the line would be too expensive, so they would prefer to remove the problem trees.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]