The San Juan National Forest is seeking public comment on a plan to harvest timber north of Dolores.
The Salter Vegetation Management Project proposes a combination of actions that includes logging ponderosa pines, planting trees, and prescribing burns in an area covering 22,346 acres north of Dolores.
The area includes parts of Salter Y, Plateau Creek, Carlyle Point, Turkey Knoll and Boggy Draw.
The 30-day draft environmental assessment comment period is Feb. 10 through March 12. The comment period provides an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the environmental analysis associated with the Salter Vegetation Management project proposed action and alternatives.
Information, project documents and electronic comment forms are on the project webpage at bit.ly/3a7VStb.
Planners said the goals of thinning overstocked forests will reduce overcrowding to prevent large wildfires, help prevent unnaturally large insect outbreaks, provide economic benefits to the timber industry and create timber-stand age diversity that perpetuates future logging opportunity.
The prescribed burns would reduce overgrown underbrush, which act as ladder fuels that can trigger larger wildfires through unnaturally dense forests.
“This project is an effort to reduce stocking and increase resilience and health of ponderosa pine stands to create a more natural forest,” said Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla. “Our attempt is to maintain forest stand health so we do not lose it to wildfire, beetle kill or disease.”
If approved, the project would take 10 years and include popular recreation areas such as Boggy Draw.
The town of Dolores is forming a subcommittee to study the proposal and offer input.
Impacts to Dolores include increased logging truck traffic through town on County Road 31, 11th Street and Colorado Highway 145.
Town officials are concerned about increased wear and tear of local roads from the logging trucks, as well as public safety associated with more large trucks on the roads.
Based on similar projects in the forest, officials expect an average of nine loaded logging trucks going through the town of Dolores per day during the harvest season. The estimated traffic is an average; on some days, there will be no trucks, on others, there could be many more than nine.
The use of loud engine brakes coming down the hill on County Road 31 (Dolores-Norwood Road) was another concern.
Board member Val Truelsen said having the Montezuma County sheriff monitor trucks to ensure they have proper brake mufflers will help reduce the noise.
Padilla said additional signage could be placed in and near Dolores to advise the public to be on the lookout for logging trucks.
A portion of the vegetation management project is in the Boggy Draw area popular for cyclists, hikers, horses, ATV users and campers, said San Juan Forest Recreation planner Tom Rice.
He said during a meeting with Dolores town officials that maintaining trail recreation and dispersed camping at Boggy Draw would remain a focus.
“We want to try and reduce the impact to the trail system as much as possible, leaving as many trail opportunities available to the public while also working with the timber operators who may have the opportunity to remove timber from the area,” Rice said.
Thinning out the forests in the recreation area lowers the risk of larger, catastrophic wildfires that would cause widespread damage to the recreation area.
Other activities associated with Salter Vegetation project would include maintenance-related roadwork in the forest. The work would be performed before, during or after forest treatments.
The majority of the roadwork would involve reshaping and smoothing of the road surface and restoring associated drainage ditches or rolling dips.
Some roads that have been closed or unused for 20 to 30 years would reopen for the timber harvest, then be closed again. No new permanent roads are proposed to be built with this project, though temporary roads may be required to reduce the need for excessive tractor skidding and allow wood products to be moved to the permanent road system.
The temporary road segments would be decommissioned within five years of first use.
Only those who submit timely and specific written comments during this formally designated comment period will have eligibility to file an objection after a preliminary decision is made by the forest service.