Forest Service plans more dead lodgepole harvest in North Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Forest Service plans more dead lodgepole harvest in North Routt County

— Time is beginning to run thin on U.S. Forest Service goals to restore the lodgepole forests of North Routt County through commercial harvest of standing dead timber in areas decimated by an outbreak of mountain pine beetles. The insect infestation was declared an epidemic in 2007. By 2021, the timber may be too far gone to have any commercial value.

Hahn's Peak Bears Ears District Ranger Chad Stewart told Routt County commissioners Tuesday that logging of the dead trees is underway at the Wyoming border in existing timber sales with picturesque names such as Raghorn, Whale Tail and Bootleg. And not far to the south, the Forest Service is currently analyzing the Big Red sale just northwest of Hahn’s Peak. A formal decision on the sale is due in June.

"Ninety-nine percent of what we're harvesting is dead tree removal, and it's deteriorating," Stewart told commissioners. "We estimate we've got about five more years, and the (saw) mill won't take it anymore. We have a buyer right now."

Before time runs out, the Forest Service is also planning two more sales closer to the unincorporated town of Clark, with the Monument Rock sale north of Seedhouse Road to be sold in March 2016, followed by the Wapiti sale on the south side of Seedhouse.

Most of Routt County is oblivious to the heavy logging trucks that carry the logs out of the forest. That's because it's all headed north, primarily on unpaved roads, to the Saratoga Forest Management sawmill in Saratoga, Wyoming. Stewart wishes there were another competing sawmill, perhaps to the south, to bring more competition to timber sales. The mill pays for the timber, but not at a rate that offsets the cost of bringing it to sale.

"It costs us more to put up the sale than we get back, but we're doing the right thing on the land and making the forest healthy," Stewart said.

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If the Big Red sale goes through, it will treat 1,868 acres of forested areas affected by the mountain pine beetle.

In its notice of proposed action, the Forest Service urges: "It's important to note, that if approved, the entirety of some stands will be treated, while only portions of others maybe be treated (logged)."

About 716 acres would be clearcut in order to create a "microclimate" that would best encourage lodgepole regeneration. It's possible some areas would be reserved from logging to preserve, for example, character trees and "wildlife" trees.

In a second area, comprising 813 acres, the lodgepoles would be clearcut, but additional logging would take place to remove layers of subalpine fir trees to help prevent them from crowding out lodgepole regeneration.

In a third area of 339 acres, desirable stands of fir and spruce trees would be protected from harvest.

Public comments on the Big Red Analysis may be sent to comments-rm-medicine-bow-routt-hahns-peak-bears-ears@fs.fed.us

Stewart said very few comments have been received on recent timber sales, probably because the trees to be harvested are already dead.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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