City tree removal project may begin this weekend
Officials at Rogue Resources said they hoped to sign their timber removal contract with the city Tuesday and possibly begin the first tree cutting operations on the Elkins property as soon as this weekend.
Trent Jones, controller for Rogue, said much of the harvested timber would go to the company’s sawmill near Milner. Some of the wood is destined for a pellet operation in Kremmling.
The initial work is just the first stage in a larger project removing beetle-killed trees along the city’s boundary with National Forest at the foot of the Park Range.
The city of Steamboat Springs received a $1 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Colorado State Forest Service for removal of trees that present a wildfire risk in the Steamboat area.
Rogue is scheduling more than a year for the project. Tree removal for the entire project is planned on about 305 acres split among 30 units, involving 135 landowners from the Spring Creek area to Storm Mountain Ranch south of the city.
Steamboat Springs The way has been cleared this month for one of the largest timber sales on public land in Routt County in years, with the issuance of a final decision on the environmental assessment of the Little Snake North Timber Sales and fuels reduction project. It is intended to remove pine trees that have been killed by the statewide beetle infestation that is virtually wiping out lodgepole pine forests in Colorado.
It could be several years before any timber is harvested on the 4,580-acre area north of Big Red Park in North Routt County, said Jamie Kingsbury, of the U.S. Forest Service. She is the district ranger on the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District based in Steamboat Springs.
“This is the biggest timber sale on the Hahn’s/Peak Bears Ears District that we’ve put together in a long time,” Kingsbury said. “It won’t be put up for sale for another six months and may not sell the first time it’s offered” because of low demand for timber.
The Little Snake sale is being permitted under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003, which provides for expedited planning for timber removal on National Forests being hit hard by insect epidemics. The period for people to submit written objections to the sale has passed, and its implementation may begin immediately, according to a Forest Service document.
One of the nearest landmarks to the planned timber sale is 9,550-foot Elkhorn Peak, within two miles of the Colorado/Wyoming border.
In addition to removing dead pine trees, loggers will remove aspen trees on 276 acres to encourage regeneration of that forest. Another 1,589 acres will see prescribed burns, again to regenerate stands of aspen.
Areas of the forest with particularly dense understory will be excluded from logging and burns to retain snowshoe hare foraging habitat, according to a notice filed by the Forest Service.
Kingsbury said no roads would be built to support the logging operations but that 18.8 miles of existing roads that previously had closed would be reopened. Up to 17.2 miles of temporary roads also will be opened.
Any gravel needed for roads would come from two small pits already in operation in the area.
After the conclusion of the timber harvest, the temporary roads would be closed again to encourage the regrowth of vegetation, Kingsbury said.