Vail-area forest fuel reduction plan now open for comment

May 3 is the deadline for public comment

The U.S. Forest Service is now accepting public comment on a proposal for fuel thinning on roughly 3,000 acres of public lands on the north side of Vail.
U.S. Forest Service/courtesy photo

The White River National Forest is seeking public comment on a proposal to reduce hazardous fuels for wildfires on more than 3,000 acres adjacent to the town of Vail.

The Booth Creek Fuels Reduction Project would use a combination of prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, and hand treatments to reduce the fuels on National Forest lands primarily north of Interstate 70.

The project is part of a coordinated effort with Vail Fire & Emergency Services to reduce fire risk and improve firefighter safety within the town of Vail’s wildland urban interface. It would implement treatments in areas of concern identified in the 2020 Vail Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

“The fuel loads in this area have built up for more than century due to lack of wildfire combined with dead and downed trees from insects and disease,” Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis said. “The fuel reduction work we are proposing would help reduce the risk of wildfire to the town of Vail and give firefighters space to more effectively engage a future wildfire.”

To be effective at reducing fuel loads adjacent to the town of Vail, the project area includes the Eagles Nest Wilderness and three Colorado roadless areas. No temporary or permanent access roads would be constructed throughout the project area. The use of motorized vehicles would be avoided as much as possible within designated wilderness, although aerial ignition by helicopter or unmanned aircraft may be used in some circumstances such as rugged terrain, where it would be more effective and reduce risk to firefighters.

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The Forest Service is hosting an April 6 public meeting to provide additional information and answer questions, from 5-7 p.m. at the Grand View Room in Vail at 395 E. Lionshead Circle. More information, is available at the project’s website. Comments need to be received by May 3.

The Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop has already issued a statement on the proposal. In a March 4 release, Wilderness Workshop Executive Director Will Roush wrote:

“We’re encouraged to see the Forest Service designing the project so that new analysis is not required when the Spraddle Creek area is protected as wilderness and to correspond with areas identified within the town of Vail Community Wildfire Protection Plan. We will be taking a closer look at the project to ensure the proposed actions align with federal laws and regulations that protect wilderness and roadless areas.”

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