More beetle-kill logging in store for northern Summit County |

More beetle-kill logging in store for northern Summit County

Julie Sutor
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. – More logging of beetle-killed trees will soon take place near Silverthorne, the Forest Service announced Wednesday.

The Dillon Ranger District decided to create a “community protection zone” on almost 1,100 acres of White River National Forest in northern Summit County along the Highway 9 corridor. The zone stretches from the Wildernest neighborhood north to the Sierra Bosque neighborhood in a 600-foot strip along the boundary of private and public lands.

The goal of the so-called North Summit Fuels Reduction Project is to reduce wildfire risk near human development in the area. Forest Service officials identified the area as having high-hazard fuels risks through combined efforts of several local and federal agencies, including the Forest Service, Summit County Government and local fire protection districts.

“In the majority of areas where we have mature lodgepole pines, the mortality is about 90 percent or more,” Forest Service spokesman Cary Green said of the area. “It’s pretty dead.”

Tens of thousands of acres of mature lodgepole pines in Summit County are dead or dying at the hands of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Forest Service officials estimate that up to 90 percent of mature lodgepole pine on both federal and non-federal lands in northern Colorado will die within the next three to five years. The northern end of Summit County has been hit especially hard, with lodgepole mortality reaching as high as 95 percent in spots.

As stands of dead trees die, deteriorate and fall over, officials fear high volumes of fuels on the ground can create the potential for large-scale, high-intensity wildfires. Such fires threaten watersheds and forest regeneration and eliminate the possibility of salvaging dead trees for timber sale.

Green said the Forest Service hopes that much of the logged forest material from the North Summit Project will enter the market as useful wood products. But dead trees in areas inaccessible to mechanized equipment will be disposed of through pile burning.

The North Summit Project is one of about a half-dozen logging projects on National Forest land in Summit County aimed at reducing fire danger or jump-starting forest health – or both. In December, the Forest Service announced a separate decision to conduct logging projects on 4,012 infested acres north of Sierra Bosque.

The planned 600-foot fuel break in the North Summit Project is designed to provide firefighters with a safe, defensible space to initiate and carry out firefighting activity. The break would not only protect private property from fires that ignite inside the forest, but would also provide a buffer from fires that originate on private land and threaten the White River National Forest.

Logging within the North Summit Project will likely begin during the summer, Green said.

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