DEL NORTE— According to Divide Ranger Martha Williamson, the Divide Ranger District is in the midst of a public comment period for two proposed timber salvage projects that may take place in the spring of 2018, depending on the type of public input that is received. The proposed projects will take place in the Del Norte Peak area approximately six miles southeast of South Fork and the Groundhog Park area, 16 miles northwest of Del Norte.
The project is an attempt to commercially harvest trees affected by the spruce beetle in both areas using old roads throughout the region based on the Forest Service road system maps. According to a letter that was sent out to the general public, “Approximately 48,750 hundred cubic feet of Englemann spruce sawtimber may be salvaged through this project utilizing ground-based harvesting systems. Up to 15 miles of old non-system road template may be re-opened and up to seven miles of new temporary road may be constructed.”
The project is open to commercial timber companies through a closed bidding process once it has undergone the first of two public comment periods. Several companies from the Valley usually bid on similar projects. Bids from potential companies for the project are chosen based on the quality of the timber, the amount of timber that can be harvested and the amount of road access that has to be utilized during the project.
The letter continues to state that the activities proposed would take place in Forest Plan Management Area Prescriptions that allow timber harvesting. The proposal has been initiated because of the current forest conditions that have resulted from a spruce beetle outbreak and are in direct conflict with forest plan desired conditions, forest-wide objectives and management emphasis and discretion provided for in the prescription areas.
The main purpose of the project is to salvage dead or dying timber before the commercial value of the logs deteriorate, provide a stable supply of wood products to benefit the local and regional economy and ensure that the areas are maintained with suitable tree species to allow for a balance of resource uses.
Williamson explained that this project will be the only timber salvage the Divide Ranger District plans to propose for the coming 2018 year, though the district will continue to look at specific areas to determine if a salvage project is needed and will be continuously looking for other opportunities to rid the forest of dead or dying trees.
The comment period is open until Nov. 9 when the Forest Service will review the proposal and make the necessary changes that address any public questions or concerns. The next step will be to analyze the effects on natural resources the project may cause as well as look at the financial efficiency of the project. Williamson hopes to have an environmental decision by the spring of 2018, when the proposal will undergo another 45-day public comment period, after which the proposal will move forward.
To comment, please visit http://data.ecosystem-management.org/project_list.