Forest Service, Vail Resorts propose plan to tackle beetle-kill at Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek; public input wanted at April 21 open house
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service and ski areas in Summit and Eagle counties are preparing to meet the pine beetle onslaught head-on, with treatments aimed first and foremost at removing dead trees that could threaten visitors, workers and facilities. The broader goal is to address forest health by promoting diversity and vigor in forested areas. At the same time, the resorts need to figure out how the treatments — possibly including patch clearcuts in some areas and thinning in others — will affect ski runs.
The White River National Forest this week announced public meetings for the projects, to be authorized under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, a law that expedites preparation and implementation of forest health and fuel reduction projects on publicly owned lands.
Project leader Dan Sokal described the proposal as “a range of vegetative treatments for overall forest health, with the removal of standing dead trees that could threaten public safety as the top priority.” Re-planting key areas with seedlings and protecting some high-value trees with pesticides are also included in the range of treatment options.
In Summit County, only Keystone Ski Area is covered under this proposal. Beaver Creek and Vail are also included. Forest health work at Breckenridge Ski Area is covered under a separate study, Sokal said.
Projects approved under the healthy forests law aren’t subject to a comment phase once the environmental studies are done, so early public participation and comment are critical in this front-loaded process. An open house on the Keystone proposal is planned for April 21 at the Dillon Ranger District Office, 680 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
For Beaver Creek, the open house is at the Holy Cross Ranger District Office, 24747 US Hwy 24 in Minturn, April 22 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the open house for the Vail proposal immediately following, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the same location.
Sokal said he expects preparation of the environmental study to last several months, with implementation of the projects set to begin a year from now. Some of the work would be done while there is still snow on the ground to minimize some of the impacts from tree removal.
Proposed treatments include:
- Cutting and removing dead and dying trees, possibly in clearcuts, to minimize risk of falling trees to the public and resort infrastructure, reduce fuel loading, and regenerate declining tree stands. This treatment will result in an increased potential for remaining live trees to blow over and uproot due to increased wind exposure after the removal of dead trees. Additional cutting of vulnerable live trees may be necessary to minimize risk to the public and resort infrastructure.
- Cutting and removing trees, possibly in small groups or clearcuts, to regenerate declining stands and to perpetuate forest cover. Live aspen and encroaching conifers would be cut to facilitate aspen stand regeneration.
- Planting seedlings or transplants to facilitate regeneration in key areas.
- Applying pesticides to protect high value trees from bark beetle attack.
- Implementing measures to reduce the impact from the increasing spruce bark beetle population such as peeling down spruce logs, removing infested trees or logs, or setting trap trees.
- Burning or removing logging-generated slash to reduce fuels and to stimulate aspen regeneration.
The proposal is based on mapping of forests done at the ski areas during the past year. The maps are included in vegetation management plans for the resorts, detailing the condition of the forest on a fine scale.
Because the scope of the beetle infestation is changing the forest landscape at an unprecedented rate, the Forest Service is looking at an adaptive management approach that would enable year-to-year changes in the treatments based on the condition of the stands. Ski area managers and Forest Service rangers would choose the treatments from a menu of options (all evaluated in the current study) to best meet the project’s purpose while minimizing resource impacts and tree mortality. Treatment menus were developed according to resource constraints and the current and desired forest health conditions for these areas.
Get more details by reading the scoping notice for the treatments in the Scribd.com window below.
More information on the proposed actions will also be posted at the White River National Forest web site.
Filed under: Environment, Forest health, forests, Keystone, pine beetles and wildfires, public lands, ski industry, Ski Resorts, Summit County Colorado Tagged: | Beaver Creek, Colorado, Forest health, Keystone, pine beetles, ski areas, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, Vail