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Logging operations underway to increase aspen health in White River National Forest

White River National Forest forester Chris McDonald talks about the importance of logging in thick conifer and aspen stands, which benefits local wildlife and health of the forest.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Logging operations are underway in a section of the White River National Forest to help regenerate aspen growth in areas where conifer trees have taken over.

“The conifer trees will replace aspen trees; it’s a natural succession. This will open up so the row gets more sun,” said Chris McDonald, a forester for the White River National Forest.

“We’re trying to manage for more aspen. Aspen is a good wildlife habitat and less fire-prone than conifer forest.”



McDonald said the Buford to New Castle project was planned decades ago, but without stewardship at the time, the operation didn’t sail.

An operator runs the Tigercat Feller Buncher while logging along the Buford-New Castle Road.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The Gypsum Biomass Plant changed all that, allowing contractor West Claims Forest Products to use the wood chips.



“These guys can grind and sort for more untraditional products,” McDonald said of the contractor.

The aspen in the area where logging is underway has little-to-no regeneration of aspen to speak of, McDonald said.

White River National Forest forester Chris McDonald walks down the Buford-New Castle Road near the logging site.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“We’re looking at a sterile stand of aspen, and we’d like to get more seedling-sized aspen back on the ground,” McDonald said.

McDonald said the aspen currently in the area are anywhere from 80 to 120 years old and likely all one clone.

A pile of recently felled conifer and aspen trees.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
An aspen tree climbs high above the forest floor along the Buford-New Castle Road.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Aspen is noted for its ability to regenerate vegetatively by shoots and suckers arising along its long lateral roots, according to information on the United States Department of Agriculture website.

Root sprouting results in many genetically identical trees, in aggregate called a “clone,, and all trees in a clone have identical characteristics and share the same root structure.

Logging operations will cut down five acres of trees per day in the area.

Morgan Larimore, contractor with West Range Forest Products, talks about the Buford-New Castle road project north of New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
An example of the thick conifer and Aspen tree forest along the Buford-New Castle road.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“We cut it, skid it, then grind it into the truck,” said Morgan Larimore, operations manager for West Range Forest Products.

“It’s really efficient as far as the logging industry goes.”

Larimore’s crew take the logged trees, chip them on site, then take the chipped materials to the biomass plant to be burned for steam energy.

Larimore’s crew will log a total of 235 acres in 14 units along the road. Some areas will be thinned and others clear cut.

This project was approved under the 2017 Buford-New Castle Project environmental assessment FS.USDA.gov/project/?project=47451 and is part of the White River National Forest’s Ten Year Stewardship Contract.

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.


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