Forest Service determines its boundaries

Section of Routt National Forest gets fresh survey

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— Terry Taylor and Dirk Hatter are going where no man has gone before or at least gone for 90 years.

The two men are surveying land that was last surveyed in 1911.

The U.S. Forest Service hired Taylor and Hatter to survey about 1,200 to 1,300 acres of Routt National Forest near Stagecoach.

State and private land borders the Routt National Forest in and around the Stagecoach area, but the boundaries are not precisely marked. The 1 1/2-week surveying project will tell the Forest Service the exact location of those boundary lines.

Forest Service officials must know where federal land borders state and private land before they can proceed with the Stagecoach Fuel Reduction Project.

"They are going to locate forest boundary so we can do work on our side," fuels specialist Mark Cahur said.

The fuel-reduction project is one of five proposed in the Routt National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. The plan identifies areas within the Routt National Forest where the dangerous buildup of brush and trees presents a fire hazard.

The Forest Service collected public input last fall to determine how it could best reduce fuel accumulations on public lands that border communities.

Shrubs and some conifer forests predominantly grow around Stagecoach residences and, coupled with this summer's drought, pose a threat to homeowners. The fuel-reduction projects calls for a series of controlled burns, as well as some thinning of smaller trees and the removal of smaller trees and brush that grow among larger trees, to minimize hazardous fuels.

Prescribed burning, however, will not occur until the spring and only under close supervision.

Taylor and Hatter have seen firsthand the poor condition of forest areas adjacent to private and state land.

To survey forest boundary, the men must trek across large sections of dead and downed trees and dense underbrush.

"It's perfect for a fire," Taylor said.

But the trek is made easier with technology that eliminates much of the grunt work required of surveyors that went before them so many years ago. GPS equipment allows them to know exactly where they are at any time. Old surveys cannot compete with the accuracy of today's surveying equipment, Hatter said.

"It's not unusual to find old surveys that are hundreds of feet out of place," Hatter said.

As they mark out forest boundary, they stop every 300 feet to post bright yellow signs that denote the line between Forest Service land and private or state land. The new signs, which should last about 25 years, define land ownership so the Forest Service knows where to begin fuel reduction and future users of national forests do not unknowingly encroach upon private land.

Once the Stagecoach Fuel Reduction Plan is complete, Forest Service officials hope homeowners who live on the other side of forest boundary follow suit by taking measures to minimize the threat of fire around their homes.

"We can do our job, and they can do their job," Cahur said. "The ultimate goal is to work on both sides of the fence."

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