(Pinedale, Wyo.) - The Pinedale Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest approved a fuels reduction project which will treat beetle-killed stands of lodgepole pine trees.
These dead stands of trees have led to concerns about public safety and the loss of buildings and structures in the vicinity. According to the Forest Service, firefighting operations are difficult in beetle-killed tree stands, with the increase in downed woody debris posing challenges for suppression and control, and more extreme fire behavior affecting firefighter safety.
The Skyline area is home to private homes, ski lodge, resort, and two developed campgrounds that will be at risk in the event of a wildfire. The area is also a popular recreation area with heavily used trailhead and parking lot at the end of Skyline Drive which could be difficult to evacuate given the narrow, winding nature of the access road.
"This project will address the high mortality of lodgepole pine from mountain pine beetle infestation and the resulting accumulation of hazardous fuels," said Pinedale District Ranger Rob Hoelscher. "These concentrations of dead and down fuel pose significant risk to public and firefighters in the event of a wildfire."
In addition, the fuel treatments in this project will reintroduce fire and other disturbance to the landscape to aid in restoring deteriorating aspen stands due to conifer encroachment and fire suppression.
Hoelscher selected Alternative 2 from the Environmental Assessment which will mechanically treat 1,414 acres followed by prescribed fire and will hand treat 833 acres followed by prescribed fire.
"The Skyline fuels reduction project will reduce fuel loading and improve ingress and egress of Skyline Drive during a wildfire event," he said.
"In addition to reducing the buildup of fuels through this corridor, this project will also improve roadway sight visibility and driving conditions along this popular Forest access," Hoelscher said. "The project also will have significant benefits to wildlife through improvement of aspen stands and the benefit it brings to existing whitebark pine trees."
For additional information, contact the Bridger-Teton National Forest at (307) 739-5500.
Feature Photo: Attacked lodgepole pine trees cut a gray and brown swath through the Medicine Bow National Forest in southeastern Wyoming. h/t USFWS