Salvage, beetle logging planned where fire burned |

Salvage, beetle logging planned where fire burned

by Dennis Webb
GSPI News Editor

Some 640 acres of trees will be logged where the Spring Creek Fire burned in 2002 about seven miles north of New Castle, the U.S. Forest Service has decided.

The agency plans to salvage trees killed by the fire or killed or infested by bark beetles. It also will plant trees to reforest 170 of the logged acres.

Work is expected to begin next summer and logging would last one or two seasons.

The project, and a previously approved aspen logging project, will necessitate mid-day, weekday closures of the Clinetop Road up Main Elk Creek north of New Castle, due to truck traffic.

The logging will take place roughly along the Clinetop Road, beginning where it levels out after switchbacking up from Main Elk Creek, and heading northeast.

The logging project, approved by Rifle District Ranger Dave Silvieus Oct. 23, would yield about 1.1 million board feet.

The Spring Creek Fire burned 13,500 acres. The logging will cover a project area of 1,830 acres on the western edge of the burn area, but not all of that will be logged.

“It’s a fairly small portion of the Spring Creek Fire but is the portion that is operable,” said Jim Nelson, a timber management assistant on the White River National Forest.

Much of the Spring Creek Fire burned in steep, inaccessible terrain.

The Forest Service will allow roads to be built where logging occurs, but only on a temporary basis.

The Forest Service hopes to get the logs out before they lose too much value due to drying, splitting and beetle infestation.

“The product is deteriorating. The trees are becoming less valuable as time progresses,” Nelson said.

The Forest Service also is trying to limit the spread of bark beetles, which have become a problem across the WRNF, and particularly infest trees downed by wind or weakened by fire.

Nelson said the burned area will regenerate with aspen and spruce. However, forest contractors will augment that process by hand-planting 6-inch-tall Engelmann spruce seedlings to a density of 300 per acre. The hope is that 150-200 per acre will still be growing a decade or so from now.

Altogether, more than 50,000 seedlings will be planted, at a cost of approximately $15,000 for the seedlings, plus labor.

Silvieus’ decision on the project is subject to appeal, but only by parties that commented during an environmental assessment of the project. Nelson said three parties did so.

One was someone living below the Clinetop Road who worried about the possibility of dust due to truck traffic. Nelson said the Forest Service has promised to apply magnesium chloride as necessary for dust control.

Also commenting was the state Division of Wildlife, which sought clarification regarding a discrepancy over when logging could begin next summer. The DOW doesn’t want logging to impact birthing/rearing seasons for elk and other wildlife. For that reason, the Forest Service has decided that the logging season can’t begin until June 21.

Nelson said the third party to comment was someone from the timber industry who was concerned about the wildlife-based restrictions.

“But those restrictions are necessary to meet our forest plan standards,” he said.

Log hauling won’t start until mid-July and will end in early October during the logging seasons.

Hauling will entail a total 180 truck trips down the Clinetop Road and Main Elk Creek Road, and then via County Road 245 to New Castle, and Castle Valley Boulevard to Interstate 70.

During log hauling, the Clinetop Road will be closed to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. A pilot car will be required with each loaded log truck or series of trucks from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m., and no hauling will be allowed on weekends and holidays.

Nelson said most of the recreational use of the road occurs on weekends and during the hunting season.

“So the conflicts should be pretty minimal,” he said.

As it happens, the Spring Creek logging project could correspond with the separate Cow Camp logging sale, also set to take place at the top of the Clinetop Road, and with the same traffic restrictions planned.

“They could operate concurrently,” said Nelson. “If that were the case then there would be more traffic, but for a shorter duration.”

The Cow Camp logging project involves live aspen. Nelson said it will look to the general public like clear-cutting, but the aspen will regenerate from suckers or stump sprouts.

The goal of the Cow Camp sale is to provide forest products and to replace mature aspen with some younger stands.

The Cow Camp logging project will cover 347 acres, and Silvieus said it will be a fairly sizable project for the WRNF.

More information about the logging projects can be obtained by calling the Rifle Ranger District at 625-2371.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

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