BOULDER, Colo.—Starting Memorial Day weekend all seasonal gates in the Boulder Ranger District’s West Magnolia area, immediately south of Nederland, will open for the first time since June 2012. The area will be open to vehicle access and camping. Forest Service Road 355D, a loop accessing four campsites, will be closed for repair.
Visitors should exercise caution around existing trees, stay on designated roads and trails, and keep camp within 50 feet of campsite markers. Trees of all sizes surrounding cleared areas are susceptible to blow-down for up to three years after treatment. Slash piles and log decks must not be tampered with, added to, or removed from for legal and safety reasons. Remember, your safety is your responsibility.
After the weekend, fuel treatment operations such as skidding and hauling will continue with large trucks moving in the West Magnolia area and on County Road 132W. Contract crews plan to complete work before their July 2013 deadline and return to plant trees in treated areas to diversify the stand and increase resilience against future mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestations.
Background: The West Magnolia project area was first closed to all traffic in June 2012 for safety reasons during fuel mitigation work and hazardous tree cutting.
This project is part of the Forest Service 2009 Lump Gulch Fuel Treatment Project decision and its treatment prescription was designed by specialists to efficiently reduce hazardous fuels, address goals outlined in the local Community Wildfire Protection Plans and address MPB while minimizing impacts to the ecosystem.
The majority of treatment parcels in the West Magnolia area were made up of same-aged and same-sized lodgepole trees. These lodgepole and other conifers above 5 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH), which are most susceptible to MPB, were removed.
Because lodgepole trees grow together, they rely on the “stand” for protection from the wind. Creating spaces between individuals (thinning) weakens them and causes single trees to blow down. Trees were removed in parcels (instead of thinned) to prevent mass blow down.
Trees less than 5 inches DBH and islands of aspen and smaller conifers were retained to diversify the new generation of seedlings. The resulting increase in variety of tree ages and species create a more diverse stand resistant MPB and other diseases.
Special instructions were given to West Range Reclamation (WRR) to minimize and repair treatment impacts and provide for diversity across the landscape. These include leaving approximately five snags (dead trees that are down or standing) per acre for wildlife habitat. Slash such as tree tops, limbs and trunks were scattered within the unit to reduce soil erosion from wind-scouring and provide nutrients to the ecosystem.
This spring and summer, Forest Service specialists anticipate treated areas will begin to look similar to meadows. Ribbons of uncut trees between treatment parcels will break up the open areas for wildlife passage and aesthetics. Over the years, retained trees and natural regeneration will provide a diversity of trees mixed with aspen.
Piles do result from fuels treatment. WRR was able to haul more than 90 percent of the cut material on this project, drastically reducing what was left behind in piles which consist of branches, tops, and limbs generally less than 3 inches in diameter. This project slash is left to cure for a least one season (dependent on humidity and moisture patterns) before the material can be chipped, masticated or burned.
Even though the wood in this area is of low value, larger tree sections have been purchased by the contractor as a way of subsidizing costs. With surprisingly few markets that can use the wood, WRR was been able to locate places in Colorado and other states that can market the material.
After hauling is done, small sections of the area may be temporarily closed to restore compacted soils, repair damage made during treatment to Forest Service designated roads and trails, seed “landings” where cut trees were stacked for loading, and place erosion control devices. Unofficial roads and trails will not be rehabilitated or opened.
It is important to remember that remaining trees, including those between treated areas, may still be serve aesthetic, wildlife passage or resource purposes. Risks of these trees falling from wind or MPB infestation still remain. For more information on hazard tree safety visit: www.fs.usda.gov/detail/arp/landmanagement/resourcemanagement/
For project, closure, and treatment updates or literature on the 2009 Lump Gulch Fuels Treatment Project visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/westmagnolia.
For other recreation information on the Boulder Ranger District this summer, please call Visitor Information at 303-541-2500. Visitor Information Services for Boulder District is no longer open on weekends.***