SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado - U.S. Forest Service officials have begun the early planning stages of another large forest-health project that aims to address the effects of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
The Ophir Mountain Forest Health and Fuels Project, which spans the eastern side of the Tenmile Range between Frisco and Breckenridge, will include logging of dead and susceptible trees on about 1,700 acres of federal land. The project area extends from Barton Creek in the Breckenridge area to Miner's Creek in Frisco, extending to elevations of about 10,300 feet.
The main goals of the project are to expedite forest regrowth and to reduce wildfire risk posed by dead trees. The likelihood of catastrophic wildfire increases when trees die and still have their needles. Fire risk drops when the trees lose their needles, but it rises again once the trees fall and pile up near the ground.
Within portions of the project area, lodgepole pine mortality has already reached 80-90 percent. Forest Service field crews are now conducting surveys in the area to document exactly where dead lodgepole stands are and to determine good access points for tree-removal projects.
Officials are also seeking public input on the project. The Forest Service will conduct a field trip Wednesday afternoon to discuss the proposed work with adjacent property owners, recreators and other community members.
According to project leader Brett Crary, the Forest Service would like to give people a feel for the project and identify any concerns or questions before the agency begins designing specific plans.
"So far, the feedback has been positive," Crary said.
Barring any major concerns from the public, the Forest Service will begin the formal public scoping process in late August or early September. A draft Environmental Analysis will likely be released in early 2011. Contracts could be issued the following summer, with logging beginning in 2012.