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Colorado: Aspen-area habitat restoration project gets OK

A massive habitat restoration project in the Roaring Fork Valley will improve habitat for bighorn sheep and other wildlife with mechanical treatments and controlled burns.

Forest Service tackles 10-year project in the Roaring Fork Valley

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With development rapidly eating up wildlife habitat along the bottomlands of Roaring Fork Valley, the U.S. Forest Service is going to try and make some large-scale improvements on national forest lands during the coming decade.

White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams last week approved the Aspen-Sopris Wildlife Habitat Improvement Project, which will use a combination of mechanical treatments and controlled burns to reinvigorate vegetation and improve wildlife conditions for bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk and a variety of other native wildlife that inhabit fire-adapted vegetation communities. All the environmental documents for the project are online at the WRNF website.

“This project is the largest consolidated effort to improve wildlife habitat on the White River National Forest in recent memory. This project represents one of the most significant steps forward for wildlife habitat improvement in the greater Roaring Fork Valley,” Fitzwilliams said. “Projects such as this are essential to wildlife populations considering the level of development and habitat loss in the valley floor.  The Colorado Division of Wildlife, through the Lower Colorado River Habitat Partnership Program is helping fund this project.,” he added.

“Habitat improvement projects like the Forest Service efforts in the Roaring Fork Valley are some of the most effective methods of reducing big-game conflicts on private property, and will help maintain wildlife populations and diversity for the public to enjoy,” said regional Colorado Division of Wildlife manager Ron Velarde. “As pressures mount on Colorado’s wildlife, projects such as this one have become very important for the survival and proper management of deer and elk, which are among our state’s most valuable resources”.

The first activities designed to implement this decision can be expected in late summer and fall of this year.  Forest Service crews and contractors will mechanically treat approximately 200 acres of oak brush and pinion-juniper habitat in bighorn sheep winter range.  These activities will occur in the Avalanche Creek area, an area east of Filoha Meadows in the Crystal River Valley and an area on Arbaney Mesa in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The Aspen-Sopris Wildlife Habitat Improvement EA and Decision Notice online here. Specific questions regarding the decision and how it will be implemented should be directed to Phil Nyland, Wildlife Biologist and project leader, at 970-963-2266.

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One Response

  1. Hey Bob

    I read this EA last weekend. In a round about way,I do believe the USFS is proposing “Aspen timber clearcuts” on up to 7,000 acres. Of course the silviculture term is “coppicing”. It works real nice at “regenerating” aspen from the stump. It’s all about age diversity. Of course the “low hanging” fruit of the young Aspen is what Elk browse on in winter. Mature Aspen have no low hanging leaves.

    The EA is very vaugue about all the clearcutting. Me thinks they’re trying to “hide it”. It’s lumped under “mechanical”. When you go to the “economics” section it talks of harvesting up to 70 million board foot of aspen.(1 MMBF= 2 ccf) Who would have thought five years ago that an EA that clearcut 7000 acres near Aspen would have sailed through with no objections. On forests that aren’t litigated-the EA’s get pretty small.

    Of course, since the OSB mill in Olathe and Kremmling went under, there is no market for Aspen. They do however use it for “erosion wattles” you may see along the highway construction. They’re the 8″ diameter 8 foot long “pillow” looking things. SW Colorado does produce them.

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