Forest Service plans timber thinning project in Upper Fryingpan Valley | PostIndependent.com

Forest Service plans timber thinning project in Upper Fryingpan Valley

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
The Freeman Fire north of Ruedi Reservoir is holding at 348 acres and 75 percent contained.
White River National Forest |

TO LEARN MORE

What: Public open house on the Upper Fryingpan Vegetation Management Project.

When: Wednesday, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Where: Carbondale Public Library, 320 Sopris Ave.

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a timber-thinning project in the vicinity of the White River National Forest where the Freeman Fire has scorched 348 acres over the last week.

The Upper Fryingpan Vegetation Management Project was planned well before the Freeman Fire started Oct. 15. However, it could help prevent similar fires from affecting the heavily timbered Upper Fryingpan drainage, according to Doug Leyva, timbers and fuels program manager for the White River National Forest.

The Fryingpan project is proposed on 1,847 acres surrounding the Lime Park area, where the Eagle-Thomasville Road intersects with the Burnt Mountain Road. The Forest Service will hold an open house on the project Wednesday to supply details to the public so they can provide feedback (see related fact box).

The Upper Fryingpan Valley area has a healthy diversity of tree types but not very good age diversity, according to the project website.

“Tree ring dating indicates much of the forest originated sometime around 1860,” the website said. “This date coincides with documented periods of drought, when large-scale, stand-replacing fires regenerated much of the forests in Colorado.”

Development over the last 150 years has resulted in more firefighting and less stand-replacing fire throughout the state. That makes forests susceptible.

“The lack of young forest within the Frying Pan landscape could make forests more vulnerable to large-scale insect epidemics, wildfire and drought induced mortality,” the project website said.

Freeman Fire 75% contained

The Upper Fryingpan Valley experienced three fires this late summer and early fall. One in August was quickly extinguished by federal firefighters in a secluded area north of Meredith after a lightning strike.

A second fire near Ruedi Shores subdivision in September was caused after a tree limb fell on a power line. Only a small area was burned, but Basalt Fire Department was concerned enough about winds whipping the fires into surrounding structures that it issued a pre-evacuation order. The order was lifted after 30 minutes but power to the area was out for two hours.

The Freeman Fire broke out Oct. 15 about 3 miles northwest of Meredith. The cause is unknown. The fire hasn’t spread beyond 348 acres and remains about 75 percent contained, according to the Forest Service. The fire is less than 10 miles from the Upper Fryingpan Vegetation Management Project site, according to estimates by Forest Service officials.

An aspen stand on the northern ridgeline of the fire continues to smoke. The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit used a helicopter Sunday to scoop up buckets of water from Ruedi Reservoir to douse the smoldering aspens. Hand crews have been demobilized, according to the fire management website. One federal fire engine and four firefighters continue to monitor the burn area.

Variety of purposes

Leyva said the Upper Fryingpan Vegetation Management project isn’t intended solely to reduce fuels and ease fire risk. It will also improve wildlife habitat and provide wood products. The age diversity will be improved so that the forest is less susceptible to disturbances such as the bark beetle epidemic that wiped out lodgepole pine trees in parts of the state.

The Forest Service is prosing clear cutting on 327.5 acres, clear cutting while leaving select trees on 1,062 acres and creation of small openings to encourage regeneration of conifers on 458 acres.

About 10 miles of temporary roads would be cut to help access the cutting areas. They would be obliterated” after the project.

Leyva said it would take a couple of years to implement the project, assuming it gets approved. It has been planned for several years but placed on hold because other parts of the White River National Forest, especially in Summit County, have been devastated by the pine beetle epidemic.

The Forest Service is holding the open house in Carbondale to help educate people on the project so they can make comments. The meeting had to be scheduled in Carbondale because no meeting space large enough to accommodate the anticipated crowd could be found in Basalt, according to forest officials. They acknowledged that it requires a longer drive for Fryingpan Valley residents, but no alternative could be found.

Written comments must be submitted via mail, fax, electronically, or in person (Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays) to: Brett Crary c/o Karen Schroyer, District Ranger, PO Box 309, Carbondale, CO 81623, FAX: 970-963-1012. Electronic comments including attachments can be submitted to

https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=50171.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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