GRAND COUNTY, Colo. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) are partnering to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health, wildlife habitat and public safety on the slopes of Sheep Mountain in Grand County. Mechanical logging work on this project is scheduled to begin immediately and be completed by December 15, 2023. Hand treatments and pile burning are expected to follow logging activities in this multi-year project.
The two agencies are using the Good Neighbor Authority program to remove hazardous trees from the forest and create a large fuel break extending across boundaries of BLM and private lands. During the first phase of the project, crews will cut and salvage trees from 187 acres on BLM-managed public lands and adjacent private property. Trees with wood that is usable to make forest products will be sold. During the second phase, crews will create a 200-foot-wide fuel break between the timber harvest areas.
“We worked closely with local communities and the Colorado State Forest Service to design and develop this project,” said BLM Kremmling Field Manager Bill Mills. “It will reduce wildfire risk to our neighbors and improve forest health, habitat for wildlife and public safety for decades to come.”
The removal of standing dead, overly dense, and down trees is expected to help slow the advance and reduce the intensity of fire, allowing more options for fire crews to safely and effectively fight fire and protect the adjacent Pole Creek Preserve, Valley at Winter Park, and Fairways at Pole Creek subdivisions as well as Snow Mountain Ranch. The project will improve forest health and wildlife habitats by allowing grasses, shrubs and seedling trees to flourish with less competition for sunlight and more room to grow.
Public safety will also be improved by the removal of standing dead trees that can fall on visitors to public lands in the Sheep Mountain area.
The native mountain pine beetle impacted nearly 3.4 million acres of forests across Colorado from 1996 to 2014. During this mountain pine beetle epidemic, Grand County was among the hardest hit areas, resulting in 80 percent or higher mortality in most forested stands. This project will help mitigate impacts from beetle-killed trees on Sheep Mountain.
“Bark beetles and wildfire don’t recognize property boundaries,” said Zach Wehr, Supervisory Forester with the CSFS. “Spanning public and private boundaries, this project demonstrates the critical need to work together to successfully address forest health concerns.”
Both phases of the project are described within the 2020 Sheep Mountain Fuel Break and Sanitation Salvage Environmental Assessment. The document is available online at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/1503382/510.
Signs will be posted in the project area to warn visitors of activities. For more information about this project, contact CW Portell at 970-724-3033 or firstname.lastname@example.org.