Landowner: Logging operation going against grain of agreement
A landowner on Beaver Creek outside Rifle took his complaints about a logging operation in Teepee Park to the Garfield County commissioners this week.
George Bauer, a Silt resident who owns land adjacent to Teepee Park, said Intermountain Resources is not meeting the conditions of its county special use permit for its logging operation.
He said the road used to haul logs is not where it was intended to be according to the forest management plan drawn up for the permit. It cuts across slopes of more than 50 percent, he said.
Nor has the company complied with a directive to spread dust-suppressing magnesium chloride on the road, he said.
Intermountain aims to harvest 4,000 acres of timber on property it leases for logging along Beaver Creek, which is also a source of Rifle’s potable water.
Logging trucks are also using County Road 317, Bauer said.
“The county road has degraded in the last year or so since they started hauling,” he said. “Every time my wife and kids go up it, I fear for their lives.”
Bauer also said he’s seen slash piles – the debris from felled trees – stacked 20 feet high in Teepee Park. The forest management plan calls for 30-inch-high piles, he said.
James Beckwith, an Arvada attorney representing Intermountain, defended the logging operation.
“The Forest Service and the county have limited jurisdiction because it’s on private property,” he said.
The haul road was constructed during the Porcupine Creek Fire in 2001 by order of the county sheriff for the purpose of fighting the fire. Intermountain decided to leave that road in place for logging, he said.
Nor does the company have to follow the forest management plan to the letter, he said.
“The plan is not the Bible, it’s a proposal,” he said.
County Commissioner Larry McCown took strong issue with Beckwith.
He reminded Beckwith that the conditions of a special use permit apply to private land in the county and must be met.
But he saved his harshest words for an independent forester, William Gherardi, hired by Intermountain to inspect the operation for county compliance, when he learned there was no water truck on the property for fighting fire.
“This is the worst drought in Colorado since 1958 and you don’t have a water truck. This is totally unacceptable,” he said. “You have slash piles and don’t have a water truck, knowing what’s been going on in Colorado?”
Also at issue is access to Teepee Park through private inholdings in the national forest.
Landowner Kathy Honea took Intermountain to court last year, disputing the company’s right to drive through her property to access Teepee Park.
Honea lost the legal fight but Intermountain will grant a trail easement. When the logging permit was issued in 1997, the Forest Service and the city of Rifle required Intermountain to build a road across about a mile of forest land within the private landholding, and the owner of Teepee Park, Norm Carpenter, was required to grant a public trail easement.
Carpenter disputed that condition. Since the litigation has been settled, he has agreed to construct a new trail that will allow access to the national forest through his property.
It will be open for hiking and horseback riding only, Beckwith said. No motorized use, including snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, will be allowed.
The commissioners postponed a decision on whether or not to hold a revocation hearing on Intermountain’s special use permit until some of Bauer’s allegations can be investigated.
They will reconsider the matter at their Aug. 5 meeting.
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