Forest Service plans for fire mitigation near Breckenridge | SkyHiNews.com

Forest Service plans for fire mitigation near Breckenridge

Julie Sutor
Summit County correspondent
Grand County, CO Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE – The U.S. Forest Service is gathering public input for a proposed fire-mitigation project in the Breckenridge area. Dillon Ranger District officials met with residents Saturday to answer questions and respond to concerns about the proposed logging.

Through the Breckenridge Forest Health and Fuels Project, the Forest Service would conduct clear-cut and salvage logging on 5,700 acres of White River National Forest land affected by the pine-beetle epidemic between Farmer’s Korner and Hoosier Pass. The project would include lands in the Golden Horseshoe area, Indiana Gulch and the area extending north from Peak 7.

“As the epidemic continues, we’re planning for what we’ve seen happen already,” said Dillon Ranger District spokeswoman Peech Keller. “As the mortality gets worse and worse, we go in and do something.”

The project’s main goal is to reduce fire danger along the “urban interface,” where forest land abuts human development. The Forest Service estimates beetle-induced mortality of lodgepole pines in the area to be approaching 80 percent. Officials anticipate that 90 percent of the trees will die within the next three to five years.

It it too much?

Some residents on Peak 7 are asking the Forest Service to scale back on logging plans near their homes.

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“I have no problem with them coming in and taking trees hit by the beetles, but they want to totally clear-cut,” said Jane Hendrix, who lives on Peak 7. “As far as we’re concerned, they should take care of the wildland-urban interface with selective cutting.”

Hendrix said she’s worried about the aesthetic impacts of a large-scale mechanical logging operation.

“This is a resort area. Our bread and butter is the scenery. We had to pay a premium for these properties because of our access to the national forest land. Our property would be worth less if we had to up and leave after a clear-cut,” she said.

According to the Forest Service, the likelihood of a high-intensity fire increases as dead lodgepoles fall to the ground, and extreme fire behavior would threaten private property, community infrastructure and firefighter safety.

Keller said the project would employ “adaptive management,” whereby Forest Service officials would assess beetle-induced mortality each year before cutting.

“Once we see a certain threshold of mortality, we would go in and do something. We realize some parts of the forest have experienced greater mortality than others, and we do know the area in Breckenridge hasn’t been hit as hard,” Keller said.

Dillon Ranger District officials collected public comments on the project during much of November and December, and they will hold a public meeting to answer questions on Feb. 10 at the Old County Courthouse. Following the meeting, officials will prepare an environmental assessment. Some small logging projects would begin this summer, but larger-scale work wouldn’t take place until 2011.

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