Forest Service plans more logging-related Fraser Valley trail closures this winter | SkyHiNews.com

Forest Service plans more logging-related Fraser Valley trail closures this winter

Will Bublitz
wbublitz@grandcountynews.com
Grand County, Colorado

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The snow of winter has arrived, but the battle against the pine-beetle epidemic in Grand County continues with logging operations under way on U.S. Forest Service lands in the Fraser Valley.

This winter, loggers be cutting and removing beetle-killed trees in the Arapaho National Forest west of Fraser and Winter Park Resort. Also being logged is the “Arrow” area, east of the Town of Winter Park on the Moffat Road.

Temporary closures are being imposed in the areas that are undergoing logging.

“These are only temporary closures and only in the immediate area around the logging operations,” said Craig Magwire, District Ranger for Arapaho National Forest’s Sulphur Ranger District.

“The length of these closures will vary, depending on size of the job, the loggers and their equipment,” he said. “The closures could take a couple of days or up to a month. The closure areas will be posted on the ground.”

Forest Service rangers are advising cross-country skiers, snowshoers, hikers, snowmobilers and other recreationists to stay clear of the logging areas while they are closed.

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“We’re trying to minimize the closures because we want the public to continue to enjoy their national forest,” Magwire said, “but we also want to ensure public safety. It’s a good rule of thumb to stay several hundred yards away from an area of active logging. The loggers are focussed on their task and not necessarily keeping an eye out for the public.”

At present, a logging operation is ongoing near the headquarters of the Fraser Experimental Forest. When completed, the loggers will move onto a section of forest adjacent to Elk Creek Road.

“As each closure is completed, we’ll get the word out on our Web site,” Magwire said.

This winter’s logging operations are part of the Sulphur Ranger District’s efforts to mitigate the pine-beetle epidemic. An estimated 183,000 acres of the district’s 450,000 acres has already been hit by it.

“Roughly, half of the district’s lodgepole pines have or will succumb to the beetle,” Magwire said. “But only about 20,000 (acres) can be realistically treated by logging.”

This winter’s logging is part of the “Upper Fraser Valley Timber Sales,” which comprise about 1,800 acres in a patchwork of areas located between St. Louis and Vasquez creeks. Those sales were held by the U.S. Forest Service in 2006 and purchased by Intermountain Forest Products of Montrose.

“Timber sales are the best deal for the taxpayer,” Magwire said. “The logging began last winter and they have three years under the sale to complete it. Winter logging has less impact on the ground.”

From 2000 to 2008, the Sulphur Ranger District has had 5,500 acres “treated” for the pine-beetle infestation. Part of its goal is to reduce the potential danger of a devastating wildfire in the local area.

“We’re also trying to remove the dead trees in such a way to reduce the impact on wildlife, the local communities and our watersheds,” Magwire said. “And we’re trying to do it in the most cost-effective way.

In its efforts to handle the epidemic, the Sulphur Ranger District has also used spraying and the removal of selected trees in “high-value, developed sites” such as campgrounds and picnic areas. Magwire said about 15,000 trees have been removed during these operations.

In the last year, tree removal around campgrounds and picnic areas has been done through contracts with commercial loggers as well as by Forest Service “Hot Shot” crews, Colorado Department of Corrections crews, and trail/recreation crews.

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