County: Keep local loggers in the loop |

County: Keep local loggers in the loop

More than a few local loggers are smoldering after Grand County awarded a contract this month to a California firm to remove beetle-infested trees from the right of way on a county road.

While there were some extenuating circumstances, it wasn’t a promising way to begin what is planned as a massive, five-year effort to clear the rights of way for 20 feet on each side of every county road.

The county is paying Cecil Logging of California $40,000 to treat part of county road in the Fraser Valley. The money was obtained from the U.S. Forest Service at the last minute through the Title 3 in-lieu-of-taxes program. One of the conditions for receiving the money is that it must be spent before Dec. 31.

It’s understandable the funds had to be used in a hurry, but the fact that local logging companies were not given a chance to participate is not.

County officials say they thought this job was advertised for bids in the newspaper.

However, there is no record of that advertisement, and failing to give qualified local companies a chance to bid doesn’t sit well with anyone.

After all, local companies have made substantial investments in equipment to respond to the need across Grand County to treat beetle-killed trees. And many of them are doing their best to employ local workers full-time.

No doubt some of them would be willing to invest even more with the prospect of a series of long-term projects looming. Or, for smaller projects, they could lease the necessary equipment.

On the other hand, anyone who understands what is involved in large-scale slash burning has to appreciate that the county’s forest management plan calls for mulching rather than burning slash.

For starters, there’s no need to dump hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel or other accelerants on piles of wet, green wood to get them burning. Mulching also keeps the carbon on the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, and the mulch promotes healthy, new forest growth.

Problem is, high-capacity tree-mulching equipment is costly, and maybe no local company will be able to make that investment.

Nevertheless, we trust the county will give local companies every benefit of the doubt within existing legal constraints to participate in the upcoming rights of way clearing projects, including the opportunity to obtain the requisite equipment.

The economic benefits that accrue from keeping that money in the county and on local payrolls should be obvious. And this goes for other entities involved in large-scale tree removal projects here as well.

For instance, the town of Grand Lake ” to its credit ” just contracted with three local logging firms to remove some 6,500 trees in 2008. When Mountain Parks Electric and the Colorado Department of Transportation ” to name but two ” embark on major beetle-kill projects in Grand County, one would hope they too will try to keep the contracts local to the extent practical.

Of course, all this is contingent upon logging companies based in Grand County being willing to step up and meet reasonable conditions and requirements. If they’re not, then they forfeit the right to complain when a California firm wins a bid instead.

Coping with beetle kill will be among this county’s pre-eminent issues for some time.

As it is, and the process has barely begun in earnest, there’s so much tree-removal activity it’s near impossible to toss a tennis ball for a dog without hitting a slash pile.

Given that, everyone involved in these efforts must be meticulous about how this work is awarded and carried out.

Unfortunately, that does not appear to have been the case with the county’s initial foray into its largest tree-clearing project.

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