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Logging project north of Dolores gets final approval

Ponderosa pine are overstocked in the San Juan National Forest and lack age diversity. A timber harvest program has been approved to thin forests to reduce potential for large wildfires, and improve forest resiliency to drought and insect infestation. (Courtesy San Juan National Forest)
Mitigation added for truck traffic and Boggy Draw trails

The San Juan National Forest has approved a large forest treatment plan north of Dolores and a new trail south of Rico.

The Salter Vegetation Management Project will thin 22,346 acres of ponderosa pine and Gambel oak to accomplish forest health and commercial timber goals.

The 10-year plan will be done in phases, and adjustments were made to reduce truck impacts to the town of Dolores and popular trails in in the Boggy Draw area.

After meeting with Dolores officials the following changes were made to the plan:

  • The U.S. Forest Service agreed that timber trucks originating from the Salter and Plateau treatment areas will be required to utilize the western transportation route via Bradfield Bridge and will not travel through town. Language for the western route was changed from “preferred” to “required.” The change amounts to about 25% of the overall Salter logging and forest health operation, the Forest Service said.
  • Timber contractors also will be informed that the town, to reduce disruptions for residents at night, will not allow commercial truck traffic on 11th Street from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Truckers would have to avoid Dunlap Hill on Road 31 during the time frame.
Forest thinning projects north of Dolores are being implemented to help stop the spread of the roundheaded pine beetle. (Journal file)
  • The Forest Service also agreed to notify timber operators during contracting about controlling truck speed and noise and to reinforce that traffic codes that require proper mufflers.
  • The county installed additional signs on Road 31, including warnings about a 7% grade and curvy road, a 25 mph speed limit, and a 15 mph zone when approaching town and 11th Street.

Disruptive noise from the use of engine brakes on Dunlap Hill was a concern expressed by Dolores.

During a demonstration for town officials, Montezuma County Commissioner Jim Candelaria showed if driven at a slow speed, a heavy truck could safely descend the mesa and utilize jake brakes in a way that does not create the blaring noise.

Boggy Trails get special attention
A logging project proposed for the San Juan National Forest north of Dolores would partially take place in the Boggy Draw area popular with recreationists.

A portion of the project overlaps the popular network of trails and dispersed camping in the Boggy Draw area. That area would not be logged until 2028, and would be given special attention minimize recreation impacts, forest officials said.

According to the project’s environmental assessment, temporary trail closures and rerouting of trails would be required during the project to accommodate logging operations.

Trail mitigation includes:

  • A buffer zone between logging activities and trails was increased to 50 feet from 9 feet on either side of the trail. The rule allows for trees to be left within a 100-foot corridor along trails to maintain scenic qualities.
  • In the final plan, logging zones were dropped or adjusted away from the more interesting trail features with unique views or geologic features.
  • The Boggy Draw area is also popular for dispersed camping. Some timber harvest treatment units were eliminated along the main Boggy Draw road to protect the many dispersed camping sites there.
  • Notice of temporary trail closures or reroutes will be posted at the trails, on websites, with local bike clubs and shops and on social media.
  • No harvest activities or hauling will be allowed in Recreation Compartments 1-4 during the annual Boggy Draw Beat Down mountain bike race day. No hauling will be allowed on Escalante Days in August, the Dolores River Festival, Ride of the Ancients Gravel Grinder in June and the Dolores Harvest Festival and Car Show in October.

Forest planners emphasized that the Boggy Draw motorized and nonmotorized trail system will overall remain open during the life of the project. Logging will be selective thinning, not clear-cutting, and it will not happen all at once.

“(The Salter) project is an effort to reduce stocking and increase resilience and health of ponderosa pine stands to create a more natural forest,” Padilla said. “Our attempt is to maintain forest stand health so we do not lose it to wildfire, beetle kill, or disease.”

Rio Grande Southern Trail

The Dolores Ranger District also released the Final Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Rio Grande Southern Trail Component of the Rico Trails Project.

The decision authorizes construction and maintenance of one new 4.3-mile non-motorized trail that would travel from Rico south along the Dolores River. The plan also approves construction of a bridge across the river to connect the trail with the Scotch Creek Road. Construction is pending available funding.