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USFS wants comment on Ophir Mountain logging plan

A map of the proposed Ophir Mountain forest health logging project. Click on the image for a full-size view.

Forest health treatment proposed on 1,700 acres between Frisco and Breckenridge; plan requires 11 miles of logging roads

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — In addition to all the work that’s already been done by Frisco and Summit County’s open space department, the U.S. Forest Service is now proposing to treat about 1,700 acres of national forest land around Ophir Mountain, south of Frisco, in stands of lodgepole where mountain pine beetles have killed up to 80 percent of the mature trees.

The Forest Service proposal is based in part on Summit County’s community wildfire protection plan and falls within a wildland-urban interface zone where fires present risks to nearby communities, recreational facilities and infrastructure.

The project would involve a total of 11.3 miles of haul roads, including 9.3 miles of proposed temporary roads in the area. Some of those are old, unused roads within the project area.

According to the purpose and need statement, four access points would be used:

  • The first haul route would be located along the trail next to the County Commons area on the south side of Frisco (NFSR 1000.1). The second route would be located through the Iron Springs USFS gate north of Summit County High School (NFSR 986.1). The third route would be located through an access point adjacent to private lands and southwest of Summit County High School off of County Road 980. The fourth haul route would be located through the Gold Hill USFS gate off of County Road 950. These routes were selected in order to provide the lowest impact to the surrounding resources while providing the most direct route available to CO Hwy 9.
  • Temporary roads are being proposed in order to access treatment sites. In total there are 9.3 miles of proposed temporary roads. Of those roads, approximately 4.0 miles currently are old or unused roads persisting from previous management activities. As such, these roads would not be expected to require any extraordinary effort in order to prepare them for use. Furthermore, the use of an already existing road would help to minimize the areas of disturbance and compaction to soils throughout the proposed treatment area.
  • The remaining 5.3 miles of proposed temporary roads would require new construction. These temporary roads would be used to access proposed treatment sites which occur beyond any reasonable access from existing roads. These temporary roads would be developed strategically and such that the overall equipment use and associated soil disturbance would be minimized. All temporary roads would be developed such that skid distances would be minimized and none would be greater than approximately 1,200 ft in length.
  • The project area extends from the Summit County bike path on the south side of Frisco eastward beyond the Summit Medical Center to a northernmost point at the bend of Highway 9 next to Dillon Reservoir; then south adjacent to the private and county lands along the western side of Highway 9 and behind Summit County High School, beyond Lakeview Circle and the Gold Hill neighborhood and south to the northern edge of North Barton Gulch.
  • The western boundary of the proposed project area is located on the east side and upslope about 1,000 ft. from Miner’s Creek, south from Rainbow Lake to North Barton Gulch Within this project area the units proposed for treatment total approximately 1,600 acres.

The logging would lower the existing and building fuel loads and help regenerate the forest. This project would also be expected to result in improvements for other forest resources, such as scenery and recreation over the long term following the ongoing mountain pine beetle epidemic.

Under the commonly used stewardship contracts, salvage of dead and dying lodgepole pine would also provide for some cost recovery to help offset the cost of treatment, according to the Forest Service.

The project will be reviewed under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which front-loads the planning process to give the public a chance to get involved early and cuts down on the tail-end appeals process.

According to the Forest Service, most of the dead trees are expected to fall to the ground within 20 years, creating the potential for large-scale and destructive fire with the potential to bake the ground until it’s almost sterile. Clearing patches of dead trees within the project area could establish a mosaic of different-aged trees that may be less susceptible to future insect infestations, the agency said in it’s purpose and need statement.

Click here to see all the documents related to the Ophir Mountain proposal.

The Forest Service will host a project open house for the Ophir Mountain Forest Health Project at the Summit County Senior and Community Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 21. Resource specialists will be on hand to discuss the project and answer questions.

“We are at that point in the development of this project where we need to hear from the public regarding any concerns they may have with what we are proposing,” said Dillon District Ranger Jan Cutts.

Written comments will be the most helpful is they’re submitted by November 1.  Written comments should be addressed to Jan Cutts, Dillon District Ranger, c/o Peech Keller, P.O. Box 620, Silverthorne, CO 80498 or via e-mail at wrnf_scoping_comments@fs.fed.us.

Comments should include the following: 1) your name, address, telephone number, organization represented, if any; 2) the name of the project you are commenting on; and 3) specific facts and supporting reasons for your issues.

If you need further information about the proposed Ophir Mountain Forest Health Project, call Brett Crary at (970) 827-5182 or Peech Keller at (970) 262-3495.

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