Breckenridge forest health project moving forward | SkyHiNews.com

Breckenridge forest health project moving forward

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news

Those with objections to the Breckenridge Forest Health and Fuels Project environmental analysis should file their objections or forever hold their peace.

The objection period ends Nov. 29 for the proposed project in the southern part of Summit County. Only those who submitted comments can file an objection to the findings of the environmental analysis.

The project focuses on treating trees affected by the mountain pine-beetle epidemic in the wildland-urban interface in the Breckenridge vicinity. It’s to reduce fuels close to homes and facilitate firefighters’ ability to protect community infrastructure and homes, said Dillon Ranger District environmental coordinator Peech Keller said.

“Just as important, it can accelerate the regeneration of new forest – getting dead wood out that impedes future forest management and regeneration,” she added. Forest service officials would seek to encourage as much species diversity as possible in the regeneration, though Keller said lodgepole will tend to follow its ecological process of coming back strong.

The project proposes treating 5,700 acres from Farmer’s Korner to the north to Hoosier Pass to the south, and west from Golden Horseshoe to the base of the Tenmile Range.

Keller said that the Breckenridge project includes more adjacent homeowners than the ongoing Ophir Mountain project, which is further north.

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She said the scoping period saw about 80 submitted comments. Those in favor of the project said they see a need to reduce the fuel load when trees fall and an opportunity to actively regenerate the forest. Opponents said they are in favor of removing dead trees from their backyard, Keller said, but they don’t want anything else touched.

If no objection is filed, a decision on the project may be made by early December, Keller added.

District ranger Jan Cutts’ environmental analysis indicates the pending decision leans toward sticking to a slightly modified original plan. The revised plan drops some acreage because there’s not enough fuel in those areas to warrant potentially impacting lynx habitat.

Cutts also considered a no-action plan and a proposal to treat about 5,360 acres which includes using hand management instead of mechanized treatment in some areas.

She favors the original plan over the modified plan because hand treatments would mean more timber left behind and subsequently, more burning. That would produce more smoke and could impact the soil, Cutts wrote. She added that mechanized equipment can facilitate revegetation by stirring and exposing the mineral soil and creating a ripe environment for reseeding.

There’s also the question of treating the Peaks Trail. The forest service’s Hazardous Tree Removal Project gives officials the ability to hand fell along the trail, but the Breckenridge project could enable mechanical treatment of the area, including tree removal instead of leaving the timber on the ground, Cutts said.

Insofar as the no-action alternative, Cutts wrote that it’s a good idea to manage what forest officials can – acknowledging that there’s significant acreage that can’t be touched for various reasons.

Keller said that now is the time to act.

“We owe it to our future generations to do something now,” she said. “We will not be able to do anything in 10 years – even five years” because the window of opportunity for “merchantable” wood is closing.

SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun can be contacted at (970) 668-4630 or at jkurbjun@summitdaily.com.

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