U.S. Forest Service offering firewood

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The U.S. Forest Service is offering firewood to anyone who can buy a permit in the next few days.

The firewood is available as part of the Forest Service's effort to protect trees from beetles.

"You get some really nice firewood that is already cut up in 3-foot lengths," said Diann Ritschard, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.

"Somebody who's not really looking forward to tromping through the woods and felling trees ... can pretty much back up and put (this firewood) in the truck."

The trees are from the Seedhouse Campground north of Steamboat Springs, where about 250 spruce and lodgepole pine trees have been cut, Ritschard said.

All trees cut were infected with beetles so were dead or would have died in the next few years.

There will be 20 cords of firewood available this weekend, and another 20 available by the middle of next week, Ritschard said. All of the wood has been peeled, so beetles have been removed from the trees.

Beetles are always present in forests, but in areas of Routt County, they recently have reached epidemic levels. Beetle populations started growing after acres of trees were blown down by a windstorm in 1997, and they have increased rapidly because of drought and other conditions.

The Forest Service has identified important areas to protect from the beetles, which include campgrounds and land on or near the Steamboat Springs Ski Area.

To prevent beetles from infecting valuable trees, the Forest Service is spraying uninfected trees to keep beetles away and is cutting down infected trees -- such as those in the Seedhouse Campground -- to kill the beetles and prevent them from spreading.

People interested in gathering the firewood should buy a $10 permit to collect one cord of wood at the Forest Service office in Steamboat Springs. Each person can buy up to two permits.

Firewood will be available in the front left side of the campground Friday and Saturday. Firewood also will be available in the back right corner of the campground Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ritschard recommended that people buy permits soon, as they are expected to sell quickly. Anyone interested in the wood should remember that the wood is freshly cut and green, so may not be burnable until next winter.

Seedhouse Campground will not open until July 1.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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