Long-awaited fire mitigation project in the Lower Blue will proceed this summer, helping protect rural neighborhoods from wildfires
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service and homeowners at the north end of the county will take another big step toward reducing the fire hazard around neighborhoods with approval of the North Summit project.
The fuel reduction work will will create a community protection zone on about 1,095 acres of wildland-urban interface within a 600-foot strip along the boundary of National Forest and private lands.
The project area includes National Forest lands along the Colorado Highway 9 corridor, from the neighborhoods of Wildernest north to Sierra Bosque. These communities have been identified through the collaborative Summit County Community Wildfire Protection Plan process as having high hazard fuels risks.
Most of the acreage slated for treatment in this project was approved in 2007 as part of what was then called the Lower Blue forest health and fuels project. The approval was voided because of federal court ruling in California relating to forest projects in roadless areas.
White River National Forest planners went back and reviewed the project under a different category, leading to this week’s decision by District Ranger Jan Cutts.
About 220 acres of the project are already under contracts that remain valid, said Cary Green, on the agency’s timber and fire mitigation experts. That means work will be able to start as soon as conditions allow around Mesa Cortina, the southwestern corner of the Wildernest area and over toward Ruby Ranch, Three Peaks and the Maryland Creek Ranch.
Clearing trees out of the zones around homes is critical, since heavy fuel loads will accumulate when the dead lodgepoles fall to the ground and create conditions that could support large-scale wildfire.
For further information, please contact Cary Green at (970) 827-5160.