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Major work in store for Keystone forests

JULIE SUTOR
summit daily news
Summit Daily file photoLooking from the summit of Dercum Mountain at Keystone, brown patches of beetle-killed trees are evident along the trails and on the edges of a logged area along West Ridge, an undeveloped portion of the resort's permit area, visible in the middle distance.
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KEYSTONE – Keystone Resort and other ski areas in the White River National Forest may look very different in coming years, as the U.S. Forest Service deals with the impacts of the mountain pine- beetle epidemic.

White River National Forest officials have unveiled proposals to remove dead and dying trees on thousands of acres at Keystone Ski Resort, Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek.

The insect epidemic is projected to kill about 90 percent of lodgepole pines in Summit County. The proposed projects would reduce risk to the public and resort infrastructure from dead and dying trees; reduce fire hazard around resort buildings and lifts; and increase age and species diversity in forest stands. The projects would be designed to retain forest cover inside ski area boundaries to the extent possible.

Proposed treatments will address impacts and long-term vegetation concerns caused not only by the pine-beetle epidemic, but also by the mountain spruce beetle, aspen mortality and other fuel-loading and forest health issues.

Forest Service officials have worked together with ski area operators to prioritize areas of greatest concern in the short-term and foreseeable future.

The White River National Forest has proposed logging on as many as 1,876 acres of forested stands within Keystone’s 8,533 acres. Treatments would take place on up to 5,000 acres at Vail and 3,849 acres at Beaver Creek.

“While these acreages represent the maximum acres within tree islands and forested stands that may be treated, treatment would not occur on every acre identified, and treatment menus are different for each treatment area,” White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams wrote in the projects’ scoping letter.

Treatments include salvage logging of hazard trees, patch clearcuts and clearcuts of entire stands. Clearcut treatments would leave in place some live pines and trees of other species.

The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the proposals and provide feedback at two open-house meetings, scheduled for April 21 and 22, in Summit and Eagle counties, respectively. Public comments are due by April 29. Following the comment period, Forest Service officials will prepare an environmental assessment for each of the three resorts this fall. The Forest Service will likely issue project decisions late in the year, and work would begin in spring 2011.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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