Piney timber sale to cut 1,190 acres |

Piney timber sale to cut 1,190 acres

Cliff Thompson

Starting in the summer of 2005, loggers will be racing pine beetles north of Vail to see which gets to the thick lodgepole pine stands first.

From a forest health standpoint, some trees are going to die either way, but logging may slow the spread of the disease and may also reduce some of the fire danger. Trees throughout the White River National Forest have become like overgrown weeds: They need to be trimmed, forest experts say.

For that reason the U.S. Forest Service is seeking bids on cutting 1,900 acres of old Lodgepole pines four miles northwest of Vail near Lost Lake. The logging will stimulate new growth and will also test whether thinning lodgepole groves actually can slow the spread of pine beetles. The logging will consist of thinning and “geographically structured” patch clearcutting to make the cut areas blend in. Nearly 11.4 million board feet of timber -enough trees for 450 homes – will be cut.

“The beetles are right there at Indian Meadows,” said Forester Bob Currie, referring to a nearby patch of forest. “There’s plenty of food up there. We can test our science.

“If we get there first we might slow them,” Currie added. “If they get there first it will become a salvage sale.”

That’s an economic consideration for the loggers. If the beetles get to the lodgepoles before the loggers, the value of the timber will diminish by two-thirds, from $120 per thousand board feet to $40. At present, nearly 90 percent of the trees set for cutting are green. If the beetles get there first, they will create a greater fire danger by leaving dead trees behind.

“We want to get some age diversity in the trees,” said Currie. Nearly 90 percent of the trees in the area are 80 or more years old and considered prime beetle forage. Pine beetles kill trees by laying their eggs. Larvae hatch and bore beneath the bark, cutting off the tree’s live-giving sap. For every dead tree that appears with its characteristic rust-colored foliage, three more trees nearby are likely infested, foresters say.

Four separate timber sales are proposed in the area north of Vail from 2005 to 2012. They will require 9.6 miles of existing Forest Service roads to be reconstructed and up to 20 miles of temporary roads will be built to access the trees. The temporary roads would be destroyed after the logging is completed.

Red Sandstone Road, a popular road for recreactionalists heading to Piney, would be one of the main routes for logging trucks heading to the lumber mill. The trucks will also use Red and White Mountain, Middle Creek and Buffehr Creek roads to access the north Frontage Road in Vail.

Lodgepole pines are a fire-dependent species which needs fire to regenerate. Humans have fought fires for the last 100 years, causing forests to accumulate too much deadwood and to become more fire prone. When lodgepole pines become overmature, as they have north of Vail, the trees become less hardy and less able to resist beetles, fire and diseases, foresters say.

No log hauling will be allowed on weekends or holidays and logging will occur between June 1 and Oct. 31.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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