Colorado:USFS clearcut solution to beetle kill in Lower Blue destroys ancient soils

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed speeding up the regeneration of
beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests in the Lower Blue by
clear-cutting large chunks of the Lower Blue River Valley. The
4,300-acre forest-health project currently under public review would
be one of the largest recent logging projects on the Dillon Ranger
District in recent memory. Because of the extent of the beetle-kill,
many of the areas will be clear-cut.Along with promoting regrowth, the
project is aimed at protecting neighborhoods and watersheds from
catastrophic wildfires. Rocky Smith, an analyst with the Forest
Service watchdog group Colorado Wild, had some concerns with how the
Forest Service plans to deal with the logging debris. “There’s a lot
of research that shows the importance of woody debris,” Smith said.
Some of the organic material from the dead trees needs to be left in
place to replenish the thin, rocky soils, he said. Some studies
suggest the loggers need to leave about 24 tons per acre. Older
studies from Europe show that, if too much of the material is removed,
it leads to “measurable problems” with soil, Smith said. Removing or
burning the debris also could delay natural regeneration by removing
too many of the seed-bearing cones, he said.

The Forest Service must
balance that factor with the need to reduce fuel loading and the
pressure to find economic value for the dead wood. As a nascent
biomass industry gains strength, there could be more pressure to
remove too much of the wood, Smith said. He’s also concerned that the
Lower Blue project seems to be on a fast track because the
beetle-killed trees lose their commercial value quickly. “The Forest
Service will sell to anybody. They’re desperate to get the stuff cut,”
Smith said. It’s important for the agency to choose a reputable
contractor and exercise good oversight, he added. “There’s no waste in
nature,” Smith said. “You have to harvest the interest, not the
capital.” Incoming County Commissioner and Lower Blue resident Karn
Stiegelmeier also called for strong oversight to protect natural
resources.About 73 acres slated for treatment are within defensible
space on national forest land adjacent to private land. Logging is
planned in the vicinity of Maryland Creek, Pebble Creek, Boulder
Creek, Harrigan Creek, Slate Creek, Brush Creek and Spring Creek, and
on the east side of Colorado 9 near Pioneer Creek and Ute Pass Road.

Posted via email from Deane’s posterous

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