EAGLE - Logging trucks are again rumbling through town after a nearly 15-year hiatus. The Forest Service has reopened - or has plans to reopen - numerous drainages south of Eagle Ranch to logging. Those new timber harvests will bring logging trucks down Brush Creek Road and through town.There are currently two active sales south of Eagle, with another in the works, said Cary Green, the White River National Forest's timber management assistant for the Eagle area.The 60-acre Beecher Gulch salvage timber sale, on Hardscrabble Mountain, sold in 2005, and about 500,000 board feet of timber is currently being harvested, Green said. A typical 2,000-square foot, single-family home requires about 27,000 board feet of framing lumber, paneling and other wood products. The Beecher sale could generate enough lumber to construct about 18 homes.This summer, the Forest Service also opened up 515 acres of land above Crooked Creek Pass near Sylvan Lake. The sale, which was given to the highest bidder, is generating 5.7 million board feet of timber, translating to about 212 single-family homes. The Crooked Creek sale is "green timber" sale, Green said, meaning most of the trees being cut down are still alive. Most of the logging being done on Forest Service land near Eagle involves the harvesting of dead timber - specifically trees that have succumbed to the mountain pine beetle or spruce bark beetle.
Logging helps the Forest Service manage the land and resources, but the harvesting has to be done quickly after the trees die, Green said."You want to get it fairly quick, before it decays," Green said. "Then it's just firewood."The diseased timber, harvested in time, can still be used for building lumber and two-by-fours, Green said.In addition to the sale near Crooked Creek Pass and in Beecher Gulch, the Forest Service has plans to open up an additional 100 acres on Hardscrabble Mountain, in Sawmill Gulch, next year. This sale should generate another 500,000 board feet of timber.The Forest Service also put timber up for sale on land near Abrams Gulch on Hardscrabble Mountain this year, but received no bids for the 150 acres of timber, Green said.Most timber sale activity near Eagle ended in the early 1990s, Green said. There was a sawmill in Eagle in the 1970s and 1980s in what is now the Bluffs subdivision and a mill in Dotsero until the early '90s.There was a rapid decline in the number of local timber sales after the mid-1990s because the White River National Forest put an emphasis on logging in other areas - from Meeker to Carbondale and in Summit County. The pine beetle infestation and other problems have put the emphasis back on forest management - and logging - in this valley.But because there aren't lumber mills in Eagle anymore, most of the logs from the Eagle-area sales are being hauled down to Montrose to the biggest mill in the state, Green said. Other products go to Grand Junction and occasionally to Silt.
Green said the Forest Service is working with Eagle to reduce the impact of the logging truck traffic in town. Lumber trucks are more dangerous than semis, and initially there was some concern about the trucks driving past Brush Creek Elementary School in the Eagle Ranch, Green said. Although the Forest Service cannot dictate what roads the truckers us, the agency will certainly share the community's concerns with the loggers. Green said.
"That's all we can do," he said. "We don't have jurisdiction of county or state roads."The increased logging activity up Crooked Creek Pass and Beecher Gulch will only generate six to eight truck trips per day through town, said Tom Gosiorowski, Eagle's town engineer."This is a negligible amount compared with the truck traffic generated by some of the larger development projects in the Eagle area, so I don't expect the public will realize much of a change," Gosiorowski said.But Kris Wittenberg, an Eagle Ranch resident, still has a few concerns about the logging trucks."We have tons of small children in our neighborhood. One of the reasons to chose to live in Eagle, and Eagle Ranch specifically, is so that our kids can run around safely," she said. "Huge logging trucks coming through certainly squelch that freedom."
==========================================Beecher Gulch Timber Sale60 - number of acres in the timber sale500,000 - number of board feet to be harvested at Beecher27,000 - number of board feet of timber in a 2,000 square foot house18 - number of homes that can be built from logs harvested at Beecher==========================================This article first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.