RG National Forest releases draft timber salvage decision

LA JARA – Conejos Peak District Ranger Andrea Jones has released the final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision for the CP District-wide Salvage Project.

District Ranger Jones selected alternative 2 with some modifications. More than 330,000 acres were included in the analysis area on the west side of the district.

“My selection of modified alternative 2 will allow salvage of dead and dying spruce trees for commercial use and thinning trees near private land to help protect structures from wildland fire, while also protecting wildlife habitat,” said Jones.

Up to 14,000 acres of dead and dying spruce trees in beetle infested areas will be salvaged over a 10-year period primarily for use as commercial sawtimber or house logs. Surveys will be conducted the first and third year after areas are harvested to determine stocking levels of the remaining trees. Tree seedlings grown from locally collected sources will be planted in those areas determined to not be fully stocked.

More than 2,500 acres of proposed salvage areas were excluded from tree harvest activity in order to protect key Canada lynx habitat. Another 410 acres proposed for salvage will be excluded near the state line with New Mexico to conserve habitat connectivity for elk, deer and other wildlife species.

Shaded fuel breaks on up to 1000 acres will be established by thinning and pruning trees within 400 feet of private property or 200 feet of administrative sites. These treatments will reduce fire behavior and intensity allowing for better opportunities for firefighters to engage fire near structures.

A 45-day objection period begins with the publication of the legal notice announcing the release of the final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision. Only those individuals and organizations that submitted previous comments on the proposed project may file objections.  A 45-day resolution period follows the objection period with the intent to resolve issues expressed in the objections. If no resolution is reached, the responsible official (District Ranger Jones) is provided direction from the reviewing official (Deputy Forest Supervisor Tom Malececk for this project) to go forward with, modify, or withdraw the decision.

The final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision may be viewed at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/riogrande/landmanagement/projects.

Contact Michael Tooley at the Conejos Peak Ranger District office at 719-274-8971.