Beetle Kill 2009: What the Forest Service has accomplished | SkyHiNews.com

Beetle Kill 2009: What the Forest Service has accomplished

Working to reduce the impacts of potential wildfire to communities and watersheds has been the Sulphur Ranger District’s (SRD) primary focus since 2001. To achieve this goal SRD has actively collaborated with local agencies and partners to make as much progress as quickly as possible in priority areas. Five priority areas were established for environmental analysis after consulting with the Colorado State Forest Service, Grand County Department of Natural Resources, Grand County Commissioners, local town governments, other agencies and neighbors to address the areas of the SRD that are dominated by lodgepole pine.

The accomplishment of the Willow Creek Salvage and Fuel Reduction Environment Assessment and Decision Notice in April 2009 completed the required environmental analysis for each of the five priority areas (see map for details). Implementation of these projects has been underway since 2004 as the individual analyses were completed. A substantial amount of logging and fuel reduction work has already been accomplished.

To date the SRD’s analysis has identified 16,000 acres for logging and hazardous fuels removal and 19,000 acres for prescribed fire.

Currently, SRD has:

– Awarded contracts on 8,800 acres of logging and hazardous fuels removal.

– Completed 5,800 acres under these contracts.

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– Burned 1,200 slash piles on 2,500 acres after the logging and hazardous fuel removal work was completed.

The Sulphur Ranger District will be implementing a range of projects in 2009 to continue working toward its goal. Capabilities have been expanded by funding received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Three important fuel break and hazard removal projects will be completed as a result of funding from ARRA: Expansion of the Vasquez Ridge fuel break near Winter Park, completing the fuel break along County Road 66 near the shores of Shadow Mountain subdivision, and additional campground hazard tree removal allowing us to keep them open to the public. SRD will continue to seek funding of projects through ARRA to reduce hazardous fuels around our community and provide jobs to the local economy.

In additional to these ARRA funded projects, progress will continue on seven timber sales: Upper Fraser 1 and 2, Arrow, Tabernash, Blue Ridge, Conveyor and Sundance in the Winter Park ski area. The completion of Willow Creek Salvage and Fuel Reduction Environmental Assessment and decision will also allow SRD to contract 1,000 acres for the Cabin Creek Salvage Timber Sale in 2009.

The Blue Ridge Prescribed Fire will begin the implementation of SRD’s comprehensive prescribed fire program. In May, Forest Service fire managers plan to broadcast burn up to 500 acres to improve wildlife habitat, reduce hazardous fuels and encourage aspen regeneration. All prescribed fires will be implemented under stringent weather, fuel moisture, smoke dispersal and staffing conditions, and will only be conducted if conditions are right.

Preventative spraying of high-valued trees in developed recreation sites, including the Arapaho National Recreation Area, will continue and 7,000 mature trees will be sprayed. SRD has been spraying some trees in these areas since 2002. Although several trees have succumbed to the beetles, this effort has helped keep many of the trees that are important to wildlife and recreation.

All of these projects have created conditions on the land suitable for natural regeneration of not only lodgepole pine but aspen, spruce and fir. A new forest is beginning among the beetle-killed trees. To complement natural regeneration tree planting is planned for Point Park in cooperation with neighbors of the Park and the Town of Grand Lake. SRD will continue to apply for funding to expand re-planting efforts in campgrounds needing reforestation.

SRD continues to work with local cooperators to prepare for possible wildfire. Consultation with a National Incident Management Organization will help SRD review and improve local readiness plans. These efforts will improve SRD’s capability to respond appropriately to a wildfire and be better prepared to address community needs during a fire incident.

Safety is a key component of all SRD mitigation activities. As logging, hazardous fuels reduction and spraying activities move around the forest, temporary trail, road or area closures designed to protect public safety may be put in place. Reopening these areas when logging and spraying are not active is part of SRD’s commitment to keep these closures as small and short in duration as possible.

Updated information about these closures can be found at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf/conditions/srdbarkbeetle/logging-fuelreduction.shtml

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