Keystone Resort forest health project nearly a go |

Keystone Resort forest health project nearly a go

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news

A proposal to remove and salvage hazard trees and apply regeneration to Keystone Resort slopes this summer will get the go-ahead from the U.S. Forest Service if no objections turn up in the next 30 days.

The plan covers about 1,650 acres of lodgepole pine within the ski area’s special use permit boundary on national forest lands within the Dillon Ranger District. The goal is to reduce risks to the public and infrastructure from falling trees, and to create conditions that would increase lodgepole pine regeneration following the mountain pine beetle epidemic by removing dead, dying and susceptible trees through salvage. Another goal is to maintain a positive guest experience at the ski area, Forest Service documents state.

Now that the environmental assessment is complete, the public has 30 days to review it and file objections. The assessment took into account recreation, wildlife, watershed and scenic resource values and outlines conditions to meet in different areas.

“Should there be no objections, we would proceed with implementation,” Forest Service spokesman Patrick Thrasher said. Keystone Resort personnel were unavailable for comment.

“They are chomping at the bit,” forest health environmental coordinator Peech Keller said, adding that the process started in September 2009.

Work could begin this summer, Keller said, and what it looks like on the ground depends on the resort’s priorities. Her environmental assessment covers acreage far exceeding what they will be able to cover in the life of the document, she added, simply due to costs of mitigation. However, with the flexibility the project allows, they’ll be able to choose areas to treat, which will likely be in the range of about 30 acres per year, depending on how much the resort wants to throw at it.

“They know, probably better than we do, what they need to do,” Keller said.

“The forested landscape at the ski area has changed dramatically in recent years due to the mountain pine beetle epidemic,” Thrasher stated via email. “Forested areas within the ski area are in a state of flux, with stand conditions expected to deteriorate year to year until the epidemic is over.”

The Forest Service projects that an average of 80 percent of the mature lodgepole pine could be lost in lodgepole dominated stands, Thrasher continued. Extensive loses of mature lodgepole pine are also expected in mixed conifer stands if the epidemic continues at its current pace. Conditions will likely continue to evolve, and any vegetation treatments need to adapt to these changing stand conditions while meeting management goals and objectives.

The Keystone Resort treatment would mitigate changing conditions at the ski area, with some actions, like hazard tree removal, occurring every year. Other treatments, such as clear-cutting, may be single-year treatments and “only when management requirements and conditions on the ground necessitate action,” Thrasher wrote.

Concerns about soil health, erosion and resulting water quality, as well as potential wetland and riparian area disturbances, were raised during the environmental assessment’s comment period. The assessment says the items “will be addressed with design features and tracked through analysis,” as will affects to threatened and endangered species, sensitive species and management indicator species habitat. Damage to revegetation areas by snowboarders and skier traffic will be addressed with protective design features.

To review the environmental assessment, access it online at and navigate to “Land and Resources Management,” then “Projects,” or view it at the Dillon Ranger District Office.

Submit objections via writing and file them via regular mail, fax, email, hand-delivery, express delivery or messenger service with Peech Keller at the Dillon Ranger District Office. Keller can be contacted at (970) 262-3495 or

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