Lake fuels project, Forest Service looks to slow down fire danger
|US Forest Service employees, Diane Cote, Michael Davis and log buyer, Bill Snow look over the Lake fuels reduction project area near Huntington Reservoir in Huntington Canyon on a snowy June 6. |
The condition of the Manti-LaSal forest is a concern to everyone who uses the forest and especially those whose job it is to protect the forest. Federal regulations have tied the hands of those working in the nation's forests and for great periods of time. Such is the case with the Lake fuels project. Work began on this project eight years ago; but the original decision document did not disclose the affects of the project on wildlife cover and because of that the decision was overturned. But now in light of the beetle killed trees the project will move forward and into the public comment phase.
On Wednesday, a field trip was held on the proposed project site in the Huntington Reservoir area. A map has been prepared which shows the areas suitable for logging by ground and by helicopter.
Diane Cote, forest service project manager, estimated there are 100,000 acres of dead trees in the Manti-LaSal forest and of those only 3.5 percent have been sold for logging, last year this number was 300 acres. This leaves a large percentage of dead forest. Cote explained this is not a logging project, but a fuels reduction project. The Lake area is a highly popular recreation destination of locals as well as visitors from the Wasatch Front and other areas. An extensive ATV loop system and numerous dispersed campsites have been improved over the last few years to add to the attraction of the area.
One not so attractive feature of the area is the number of dead and dying spruce that dot the mountainside. "This area fits the criteria for the Healthy Forest Act, it can't be old growth and it can't be in a roadless area. This area is a watershed for the town of Huntington. This area is also heavily used by ATVs. The US Forest Service has done a lot of hazard tree removal from the campsites. We have also sprayed for the bark beetle in campgrounds with some success. We still have some trees that are alive," said Cote.
Cote pointed out some areas that were logged years ago, "It's hard to tell these areas were ever logged. The Lake project is designed outside roadless areas. This project was delayed eight years and tied up with the roadless rule and other political things......so it took awhile. We were not aggressive with the spruce beetle but these political delays were beyond our control. This Lake area has been identified as an area of concern in both the Sanpete County wildfire protection plan as well as Emery County's plan," said Cote.
The planned logging areas would be accessed by former roads and when the logging is complete they would be returned to trails. These former roads are now used as trails for foot and horse traffic.
The scoping process will last until June 20. Because this project was started before and then delayed most of the paperwork has been completed unless anything new needs to be addressed from public comments received. After the public comment period is complete these comments will be compiled into a final report. The environmental assessment will come out sometime in August.
Michael Davis from the Price Forest Service Office said the process for the Lake project cannot be appealed, but those commenting can voice objections and the reasons behind such objections. Revisions to the plan can be made based on these objections, and negotiations can occur, but not appeals.
|Dead spruce removal is part of the Lake fuel reductions project|
After this point, the plan will be implemented immediately and the parcels of trees would be available for sale in fall of 2008.
The project would entail the removal of all beetle kill spruce 12 inches in diameter and above on approximately 805 acres; plans are to rejuvenate aspen on 145 of these acres and to replant spruce on approximately 660 acres.
Fuels reduction activities will occur on approximately 805 acres using various methods to include piling and burning, broadcast or jackpot burning or chipping.
Also along on the field trip was Bill Snow who is a log buyer for a home builder in the area. He expressed interest in the log sale, particularly the trees that can be logged with line equipment. He said the price of fuel would probably make the helicopter only sites unfeasible.
Cote said it costs approximately $500 an acre to replant. Small seedlings are put into the areas to be replanted. Cote explained that clear cuts are harder to regenerate. She likes some cull trees to be left so she can hide the seedlings around them to give some cover as they become established. The seedlings are planted at a ration of 426 per acre. It is the goal after five years to have 70 percent of the trees still alive. It is proven that the more specie diversification an area has the more resistant those species are to insects.
The areas which have beenpreviously logged or disturbed have a better chance at regrowth. An area which has been scorched by fire has a difficult time reestablishing itself. Everywhere in this Lake area which has been logged has a significant aspen regrowth. Cote is proud of this fact.
"There has been some discussion that this forest won't burn, but that's not true. There have been some areas we have let burn. With the right weather conditions, any forest will burn. This area has developed recreation sites and a scenic byway running through this canyon. We don't want a fire here to damage this area. It is prudent to manage this landscape so any damage by fire would be reduced. When a fire gets going in the tree tops there's not much you can do but watch it burn. A scarred earth takes 50-100 years to come back. Where spruce areas are scorched by fire, it's hard to come back. Logging is site protection. The spruce will come back from a logged area, but in a scorched black area regrowth is tough," continued Cote.
"We will never be able to treat all of this forest, but where we can we will treat which will accelerate recovery of this ecosystem. Approximately only 25-30 percent of what's dead could be logged. It isn't feasible to log everything. Some places you just can't get to and some places are unstable. We try to select the areas that would be good selections for the logging," said Cote.
Davis said, "We do our very best to manage this land for multiple resources. Things go so much better when everyone works together on a project. Wildlife, recreation; everyone working together on a project can accomplish so much more. We want to hear both sides from people. Those who support the project and what they like about it and those who object and why they object. It's helpful to be specific in your comments."
Approximately 98 percent of the spruce over 16 inches in diameter are dead from the forest boundary to Fish Lake to Scofield and Gooseberry.
Comments can by made to: Manti-LaSal National Forest, Price/Ferron Ranger District, Box 310, Ferron, UT 84523, phone 636-3320 or fax 435-283-5616.