More Routt Forest logging planned

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— Four hundred more acres of the Routt National Forest blowdown area have been slated for logging in September, but no new roads will be built to access the timber.

U.S. Forest Service officials recently decided to go ahead with the Zephyr salvage sale and will log two sections in the Gold Creek roadless area in north Routt County. One section is a 350-acre area of blown down timber about two miles north of the Slavonia trailhead. The other is a 50-acre area just south of the trailhead.

The Gold Creek trail may close for about a week because of the logging at the smaller site.

The decision amends the 1998 North Fork salvage plan to remove 37 million board feet of wood from 2,700 acres of trees felled by a powerful windstorm in October 1997. The North Fork logging is nearly 40 percent complete.

"We considered this area in the original North Fork decision but we decided not to do it," said Frank Cross, ecosystem protection manager for the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest. "It was below the margin for a viable timber sale."

The forest plan for the Gold Creek area is nonmotorized recreation, which means no road building. Instead, helicopters will be used to remove the 3 million board feet of wood. That wasn't economically feasible in 1998, but it is today, Cross said. Since 1998, the dead trees have dried and become lighter, making it possible to carry more wood with a helicopter.

Officials also believed previously that the 9,000-plus elevation where the trees are would limit the amount of weight the helicopters could carry. Tests have changed their minds.

"The performance of the helicopters was better than we expected," Cross said.

On top of that, the wood is worth more today than it was two years ago. George Strong, whose family has run a sawmill in the Carbondale area for more than 100 years, said it's simply a matter of supply and demand: there's less timber available today. "The market is narrowing down," he said.

That's true on the Colorado side of the Routt National Forest, said the Forest Service's Kim Vogel.

"We're not providing as much as we did before," she said.

In the past, logging was a primary focus for the Forest Service. Now, with a multiple-use mandate, the agency has shifted its focus to protect the forest ecosystem, Vogel said.

Though less timber is being logged, logging still produces revenue for the Forest Service.

The 3 million board feet of trees in the Zephyr deal will be sold to a private contractor for about $80,000, Cross said. After the contractor pays for the logging and sends the wood to a mill, it will have a market value of $1 million.

Last year, officials at the Routt National Forest collected about $1.3 million from timber sales in the forest.

The counties where the logging occurs received some of that money, collecting one-forth the amount of each sale. Routt County received $303,000 in 1999 from timber production, according to Forest Service numbers.

Also, the Forest Service uses part of the revenue for reforestation of the logged areas. "We actually go out and replant, tree by tree," Cross said.

Subalpine fir trees, which are common in the Zephyr area, are short-lived and very susceptible to disease. Replanting with lodgepole pines and spruce trees will result in a healthier forest, Cross said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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