SAN LUIS VALLEY— There is a lot happening with forest management on the Rio Grande National Forest. One major analysis has been completed and the project decision approved, and several others are in varying stages of development and open to public input.
Sagauche District Ranger Tristram Post recently signed the final record of decision for the 145,000-acre La Garita Hills Restoration Project. This project will salvage dead and dying spruce trees on up to 31,000 acres for commercial sawtimber; thin trees and use prescribed burning on up to 54,000 acres in drier forest types; improve riparian areas along streams on up to 770 acres by removing conifers and planting willows; and reduce trees encroaching on upland meadows on up to 8,400 acres to maintain patchiness across the landscape.
The Conejos Peak Ranger District is inviting input on the draft environmental impact statement for the CP Salvage Project. The analysis for this project covers more than 330,000 acres. The proposed activities would salvage dead and dying spruce trees on up to 17,000 acres across the district for commercial sawtimber and thin trees to reduce fire risk on up to 1,000 acres. Activities would begin in the summer of 2018 and continue for 10 to 15 years.
The Conejos Peak Ranger District is also seeking input on the Fox Creek Vegetation Management Project. The proposed activities would reduce fire risk and improve wildlife habitat for bighorn sheep, deer, elk and northern goshawk through thinning trees on more than 335 acres and using prescribed fire on over 2,900 acres in the Fox Creek area located 13 miles west of Antonito.
The Divide Ranger District is inviting public input on two environmental assessments: the Groundhog Spruce Beetle Salvage Project and Del Norte Peak Spruce Beetle Salvage Project. The Groundhog Spruce Beetle Salvage Project proposes to salvage dead and dying spruce trees on approximately 1,950 acres in the Groundhog Park area 16 miles northwest of Del Norte. The Del Norte Peak Spruce Beetle Salvage Project proposes to harvest dead and dying spruce on approximately 4,100 acres in the Del Norte Peak area six miles southeast of South Fork.
Spruce beetles have infested more than 600,000 acres of spruce-fir forest on the Rio Grande National Forest. The Forest salvages dead and dying spruce trees for human benefit in areas designated for timber management as long as the trees are useable for commercial purposes. Surveys are conducted following harvesting activities to identify areas without adequate natural regeneration of young trees. These areas are then planted with seedlings grown in a nursery from seeds previously collected from local trees.
Additional information for all the projects above, including where, when and how to provide comments, may be found on the Rio Grande National Forest projects webpage at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/riogrande/landmanagement/projects.