4,000 acre project will help reduce wildfire risk for rural neighborhoods and speed forest regeneration
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service this week gave final approval to a 4,000-acre forest health and logging project that will help protect some of the rural subdivisions in the Lower Blue from the wildfire threat posed by dead lodgepole pine forests.
The project includes areas of salvage logging, where the Forest Service hopes to capture some of the timber’s economic value. The treatment units are scattered along the Lower Blue valley, mostly west of Highway 9, around Maryland Creek, Harrigan Creek, Slate Creek, Brush Creek and Spring Creek.
The value of the timber could at least partially offset the cost of the treatments and could provide a supply of forest products and/or biomass to local industries for the next three to eight years.
East of Highway 9, treatments are slated for the Pioneer Creek area and along Ute Pass Road.
“Well-timed action is critical in order to regenerate lodgepole pine stands without delay and capture the economic value of forest products before they deteriorate,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams wrote in his formal decision notice. “This proposed project is only a small percentage of the National Forest lands that are being impacted by the (mountain pine beetle and essentially the last opportunity for decades to manage these lands for the future forest,” he wrote.
The biggest concern is the heavy fuel load that results when the dead pines fall to the ground. According to the Forest Service, those conditions could lead to a “large-scale wildfire characterized by high-severity, high intensity fire behavior.”
The approval is subject to a 45-day administrative appeal period. All the information on the project, including detailed maps, and contact information for appeals, comments and information is online at the White River National Forest web site.