Forest Service seeking comments on managing beetle kill restoration areas | PostIndependent.com

Forest Service seeking comments on managing beetle kill restoration areas

Staff report

The White River National Forest is seeking public comments on a proposal to implement a forest-wide vegetation management project located in Garfield, Eagle, Mesa, Pitkin, Rio Blanco and Summit counties.

The project seeks to maintain fuel breaks in areas that have regrown since being cleared in recent years of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle.

“In response to the mountain pine beetle epidemic, the White River National Forest has worked aggressively to reduce fuel concentrations in critical areas adjacent to communities and to promote the regeneration of lodgepole pine,” Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor, said in a statement. “However, we now have previously-treated areas across the Forest that have regrown and are overly-dense and need maintenance to continue to be effective in the event of future wildfires.”

The Forest Service would conduct vegetation management to remove small trees on a maximum of 1,000 acres of public lands

The activities would include continued management of live and dead fuels within previously created fuel breaks in the Wildland Urban Interface, where the edge of developed communities meet forest land.

The project would improve individual tree growth, and forest health, through reducing tree density in naturally occurring stands of young lodgepole pine, and enhance species diversity by encouraging and protecting young Engelmann spruce trees planted in beetle kill areas.

It would also reduce the extent of insects or diseases present in lodgepole pine clusters.

During the last 15 years, the mountain pine beetle epidemic impacted lodgepole pine populations across the Rocky Mountains, leaving large swaths of widespread, dead-standing trees. In response, the National Forest implemented, and will continue to implement, targeted fuels reduction projects on federal lands to create fuel breaks between communities and Forest land to protect infrastructure and provide for firefighter safety in the event of a future wildfire.

Over time, these completed fuel breaks have regenerated and are now dense with vegetation, according to the Forest Service. Continued maintenance and thinning of past treatment areas would reduce tree density, increase water and nutrient availability, remove dwarf mistletoe, and increase tree vigor.

The Forest Service asks for specific feedback on the proposal to refine the project and identify potential issues. Comments specific to the proposed action that identify a cause-effect relationship are most helpful.

Comments can be submitted at White River National Forest offices in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Rifle, Meeker, Minturn or Silverthorne, or online by visiting https://bit.ly/2R0vWqJ. Comments can also be mailed to White River National Forest, ATTN: Shelby Limberis, P.O. Box 190, Minturn, CO, 81645.