Logging traffic through town is largely from beetle-kill trees
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – For those wondering if there have been more logging trucks coming through town in recent months, the answer is, “yes,” according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Between beetle-killed trees in Summit and Eagle counties, and a logging operation in the Four Mile Creek area, contractors are hustling to get as many trees as possible cut and moved before winter hits in earnest, said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams on Friday.
Within a matter of weeks, he predicted, the logging traffic will ease up.
Fitzwilliams remarked that much of the increased traffic has come from loggers who are clearing out beetle-killed trees in the eastern end of the forest, in Summit and Eagle counties.
Vast stretches of trees in those areas have been killed off by an infestation of the mountain pine beetle, leaving behind huge groves of dead or nearly dead trees that pose significant wildfire hazards, forest officials have said.
As part of the effort to clear out the dead trees, Fitzwilliams said, logging contractors working in Summit and Eagle counties are hauling loads through Glenwood Springs, up Highway 82 to Highway 133, through Carbondale and Redstone to McClure Pass and over to a mill in Montrose.
A separate beetle-kill salvage operation in the Starwood neighborhood outside of Aspen, Fitzwilliams said, is “pretty much done.”
In the upper reaches of the Four Mile Creek area, Fitzwilliams said, loggers continue to work a spruce beetle kill timber sale from 2008, work that he said he expects to continue for a couple of years.
The public lands salvage, however, is not a money maker for the Forest Service, he noted.
“We’re paying for it,” he said. Clearing areas of beetle-killed lodgepole pine costs $500 to $1,200 per acre, depending on the location.
Typically, he said, salvage operations are going on in parts of the forest that are frequented by the public, including campgrounds, roads and trails.
Fully 80 percent of the beetle-killed trees, he said, will not be logged out but will be left “so that nature can take its course.”
And it is possible that funds for the salvage work will not last more than another year or two, given the economy and its effect on pinched government budgets, Fitzwilliams said.
Beside the logging on national forest lands, Fitzwilliams said, “There’s a lot of private-land logging going on,” throughout the Western Slope, generating logging traffic that is not tracked by his agency.
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