West Magnolia Update: Gates Open

ACCESS: The three seasonal gates along County Road 132W in the Boulder Ranger District’s West Magnolia area, immediately south of Nederland, are open for the first time since June 2012. The area is open to vehicle access and camping. Forest Service Road 355D, a loop accessing four campsites, is closed for repair.

SAFETY: 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. Remember, your safety is your responsibility.

STILL OPERATING: 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.

WHY THIS SCALE OF TREATMENT: Hazard trees, beetle infestation, and decadent fuels on National Forest System lands in the West Magnolia area needed to be addressed. With this area’s fuel condition, popularity and proximity to Nederland, fire mitigation work and beetle infestation took priority over recreation. Nearby areas are scheduled for fuels mitigation work as well, supporting Boulder County and Nederland local Wildfire Community Protection Plans.

HOW IT LOOKS NOW: Large parcels of even aged lodgepole pine larger that 5 inches in diameter at chest height were removed. Aspen and smaller diameter lodgepole was retained.

Forest Service specialists anticipate treated areas will soon look similar to meadows with the ribbons of uncut trees between treatment parcels breaking 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.

Even though conditions may not currently meet expectations for some people, over time natural regeneration, tree diversity planting, trails planning and management will be the key in building a healthier, more resilient landscape for now and in the future.

FUTURE TRAILS: Boulder District Ranger is planning to initiate scoping for an Environmental Analysis on the Magnolia trails system following NEPA regulations, which will provide opportunities for visitors and locals to give input and feedback on proposed actions. STAY TUNED for when the scoping letter goes out!

CURRENT TRAILS: Non-system trails, such as social trails, will not be restored. USFS is working with outside volunteer agencies to plan for trail tread restoration on designated USFS trails. No new trails are to be created or built by non-U.S. Forest Service Personnel on National Forest System lands.

PILES: Slash piles and log decks must not be tampered with, added to, or removed from for legal and safety reasons. The contractor hauled out more than 90 percent of the cut material, drastically reducing what was left behind. These piles consist of branches, tops, and limbs generally less than 3 inches in diameter. This slash must be left to cure for at least one season (dependent on humidity and moisture patterns) before the material can be chipped, masticated or burned.

TREE PLANTING: Planting unauthorized vegetation is prohibited. Contracted crews are scheduled to start planting a specific mix of trees in 30 acres within the next two weeks (weather and conditions dependent) to increase future stand diversity. Visitors are advised to stay on designated or marked roads and trails to avoid trampling saplings.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE TREE TRUNKS: 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.

STANDING DEAD TREES: 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.

WHY THE BIG “HEALTHY” TREES: 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.

WHY SO MANY TREES AT ONCE: Lodgepole trees grow together, they rely on the “stand” for protection from the wind. Creating spaces between individuals (thinning) weakens them and causes all single trees to blow down. Trees were removed in large parcels (instead of thinned) to prevent mass blow down.

WHAT WAS LEFT: 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.

WHAT IS NEXT: 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.

SAFETY AGAIN: 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 trees in the boundary ribbons falling from wind or MPB infestation still remain. For more information on hazard tree safety visit: www.fs.usda.gov/detail/arp/landmanagement/resourcemanagement/

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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 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.