The Dolores Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest has released a draft Environmental Assessment for an aspen logging project.
The proposed project targets mature aspen stands in five areas, located east and northeast of Dolores in the vicinity of Hillside Drive, Orphan Butte, Lone Cone, Cottonwood Creek and Beef Pasture.
The overall objective of the Dolores Aspen Project is to improve and maintain the resistance and resiliency of aspen forest ecosystems over the long term, and increase the diversity of aspen forest ecosystem. The proposal identifies a roughly 8,000-acre analysis area and proposes selective logging within mature aspen stands on 4,000 to 6,000 acres within the area.
The project seeks improve the age-class distribution of aspen groves to maximize the benefits for a variety of users and ecological benefits.
Aspen stands provide high quality summer range for domestic livestock and habitat for some wildlife species. Aspen groves can serve as living firebreaks and are important for recreational and aesthetic reasons, according to the project’s public scoping documents.
Aspen is a fine-grained, light, soft hardwood. The Dolores Ranger District’s aspen management program has been in place since the 1940s, primarily to supply local businesses that use aspen for its products.
According to project documents, there is an overabundance of mature aspen stands and an under-representation of middle-aged and young aspen across the district.
The goal is to create an intermixed mosaic of aspen age classes using a coppice clearcut method to stimulate regeneration of aspen.
This approach is intended to enhance forest resilience to future natural disturbances and improve habitat diversity, while also providing desired forest products. Temporary openings created by coppice clearcuts would be variable in size and shape. Small groups of trees would be retained in clumps adjacent to streams and for wildlife habitat.
These treatments are intended to create vigorous, dense areas of young trees, and initial regeneration levels are expected to range between the desired levels of 5,000 and 20,000 aspen sprouts per acre. The proposal would treat about 4,000 to 6,000 acres of mature aspen-dominated forest within the 8,000-acre project analysis area.
The project works to maintain the resiliency of forest ecosystems in an effort to increase protection against epidemic insect and disease outbreaks.
There is a need to reduce damage and mortality to aspen stands in the area caused by root disease, ink-spot fungus, cankers and sudden aspen decline, according to the proposal.
“When aspen areas with some disease issues are logged before the entire stand is infected, the regrowth is much more robust, so we want to be proactive,” said David Casey, a forester with the San Juan National Forest.
When there is minimal disturbance, such as from wildfires, mature aspen stands tend to dominate, blocking the sun from reaching the ground and limiting the next generation.
“By logging the mature aspen, we are mimicking the natural disturbance in the landscape, causing a sprouting reaction of new aspen trees,” Casey said.
The method of implementation could entail the award of several contracts to qualified businesses using open competitive bidding. The form of these contracts might be a timber sale or a stewardship contract.
Written comments will be accepted for 30 days starting June 7. Only those who submit timely and specific written comments during this formally designated comment period will have eligibility to file an objection. Issues raised in objections must be based on previously submitted timely, specific written comments regarding the proposed project unless based on new information arising after the designated comment opportunity.
For more information or to comment electronically visit the project webpage at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=54880
Mail, or in person, to either David Casey, Supervisory Forester, or Derek Padilla, District Ranger Dolores Ranger District, Attention: Dolores Aspen Project, 29211 Hwy 184, Dolores. Comments can be dropped off Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30p.m., excluding holidays.