County embarks on ambitious tree-removal project |

County embarks on ambitious tree-removal project

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

This fall, Grand County will be starting a major tree-cutting project with the goal of taking out every dead or dying lodgepole pine tree 4 inches in diameter or larger along county roads.

Division of Natural Resources Foreman Jennifer Murray presented the county’s first-ever Grand County Forest Management Plan to commissioners yesterday during a public hearing.

Commissioners approved the plan unanimously.

“We’re the first county that has one of these (plans), as far as I’m aware,” Murray said.

The plan could become the prototype for other counties facing a mountain pine beetle epidemic, devastating about 800,000 forested acres county-wide.

Dead, dying or threatened lodgepoles will be removed in an area 20 feet from the edge of road shoulders, according to the plan.

Due to the costs associated with logging operations, the project will be staged over an expected five-year period.

For now, the Natural Resources Division is contracting loggers to do the job. Because of the time and the intense labor the project entails, “hiring out-of-house is less expensive than hiring in-house,” Murray said.

The county found this out after a one-month trial run using its own personnel on a test area near Rocky Mountain National Park.

A professional logging business “has appropriate logging equipment and experience to cut trees, remove logs and process the slash on site,” the plan reads.

A forestry head cutter/rotary mulcher attachment can grind and mulch the forest slash into small pieces immediately after logs are cut. The material is then dispersed on the forest floor to “protect soils and provide immediate start of re-vegetation.”

This mechanized equipment is extremely costly, Murray said, and for this reason the county has opted to contract logging companies already equipped rather than invest in the machinery.

There is a company already contracted to start in the Fraser Valley this fall. An estimated $54,000 in forestry funds is available to the division for tree removal over a few-week period.

The project will start in the Fraser Valley area because of its cost-effectiveness due to the value still placed on timber in that area. The division is exploring other ways to make use of right of way trees as the project continues, such as near Grand Lake where standing dead timber is older.

The pellet operations in Kremmling may be one solution. “Kremmling is closer than Montrose,” Murray said.

Primary roads, or heavily used roads that link to highways will be the division’s first priority. The logger has indicated that several miles of tree-removal and slash grinding can be accomplished in one day.

The county’s overall goal, however, is to remove every diseased tree along every county-maintained road during the course of the project.

The focus is the safety of these roads during emergencies as well as lessening the danger of falling trees. The division predicts the absence of trees along rights of way will also improve fire breaks in the event of wildfire, improve motorist lines of sight to help decrease collisions with wildlife, as well as facilitate snow removal and noxious weed control

Murray assured commissioners the county’s tree project will be in tandem with Mountain Parks Electric’s tree removal plan, serving to remove lodgepoles from within 10 feet of the cooperative’s network of power lines.

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