Officials discussing forest plan

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— Local Forest Service officials will meet with the Routt County commissioners today to talk about how the National Forest Plan will be implemented locally.

The plan is the result of $1.8 billion appropriated to the U.S. Forest Service by the U.S. Congress last fall to address wildland fire concerns. The move was a response to 7 million acres of public and private land in the United States that were burned by fire in the summer of 2000, Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Pipher said.

Locally, the money will pay for a five-person fire crew and a Hot Shots crew in Craig. Also, the plan calls for fuel reductions on Forest Service land.

Right now, local forest officials are looking at four areas that need some sort of fuel reductions. Areas being analyzed are 3,000 acres at Dry Lake, 500 acres near Stagecoach, 425 acres at Red Dirt and 775 acres surrounding the town of Gould.

Pipher said fuel reductions could be controlled burns, thinning, mowing brush or removing younger trees in a mature tree stand. Officials will decide which technique will be most effective in each area.

The need for the fuel reduction is the result of years of firefighters putting out wildland fires instead of letting them burn, Pipher said.

"It has caused an unintentional buildup of fuels," she said.

Fires naturally occur in forests every 15, 20 or 30 years. When they are put out, highly flammable brush and ground debris build up, which creates a potential for a larger fire.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger is looking forward to the meeting.

"They are going to tell us what we can expect from the Forest Service," he said.

Commissioners also will discuss how the county and the Forest Service cooperates on fighting local fires, Monger said.

The meeting is from 9:30 to 10 a.m. today at the Routt County Courthouse in the Commissioners Hearing Room.

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