Wildfire mitigation work coming to Keystone in early August | SummitDaily.com

Wildfire mitigation work coming to Keystone in early August

A map shows where logging work will take place near Settler's Creek in Keystone.
Map from Summit County government

The Summit County Open Space and Trails department is working with the Colorado State Forest Service and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to begin its first phase of hazardous fuels reduction in the Settler’s Creek Open Space in Keystone.

The area was selected due to the large quantity of standing beetle-kill pine and the abundance of parasitic dwarf-mistletoe.

Jordan Mead, open space and trails resource specialist with the county, said more than 60% of the treatment area is standing lodgepole pine that was killed by the mountain pine beetle. The area is also in close proximity to homes and infrastructure, such as an Xcel Energy transmission line, making it a high priority in the Summit County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Dead and mistletoe-infested lodgepole pines are more susceptible to drought, fire and other diseases, Mead said, making it a priority for removal.

Settler’s Creek has an abundance of aspen trees beneath the canopy — along with healthy spruce, pine and fir saplings — which can provide natural habitat and food sources for native wildlife.

“The idea is to remove the standing dead (trees), which is a lot of heavy fuel load, and then to remove the diseased lodgepole pine in order to allow the regeneration of aspen,” Mead said. “There’s a heavy amount of aspen regeneration in the understory at that site, so we wanted to encourage that aspen to grow up into the canopy because it can provide a natural fuel break in certain conditions because it retains more moisture.”

Mead said the project focuses specifically on Tract D of Settler’s Creek, a 15-acre parcel. Of the 15 acres, 12 acres will be logged. He said the county purchased the Settler’s Creek land from Vail Resorts in 2004.

Neighbors to the area — including the Settler’s Creek, Alders, Trapper’s Crossing and Ski Tip subdivisions — can expect to hear chain saws running on weekdays for three weeks throughout the duration of the project, starting Monday, Aug. 2. Trails and access routes will also be closed for up to 30 minutes at a time to fell trees near the routes and to clear downed trees.

Mead said the project was delayed for a week because the work crews from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps were assisting on a fire near Steamboat Springs. He said Summit County wanted to allow the crew to finish that work before moving onto this project.

The logging project is funded by a conservation youth corps grant that the county applied for from Great Outdoors Colorado, which covered about two-thirds of the project’s costs, Mead said. He added that the remaining portion is being funded by a 50% grant match the project received from the voter-approved Summit County Strong Futures Fund.

A second phase of the project will take place next winter, which will include one to two pile burn days. Mead said waiting until winter will give the piles of wood time to cure. The pile burning will take place only when there is at least 6 inches of snow on the ground and a forecast that ensures adequate smoke ventilation.

“There’s so many community benefits of this project,” Mead said. “By removing the standing dead and the diseased trees, we’re also creating a buffer of fuel breaks, so if wildfire did move to this area, there would be a place for firefighters to stage equipment and to put in fire lines.”

Anyone traveling through the project area is encouraged to be cautious and obey all posted signs in the coming weeks.

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