U.S. Forest Service logging shutdown could affect ski area work

2013-10-08T05:45:00Z 2014-08-02T14:57:02Z U.S. Forest Service logging shutdown could affect ski area work missoulian.com

A nationwide stand-down on federal logging projects has left some ski areas scrambling as winter approaches.

“They haven’t contacted me one way or the other,” Montana Snowbowl owner Brad Morris said of the hazard-tree removal work he hoped to finish this fall. “It’s just getting rid of trees that are dead, but it’s a timber sale.”

No U.S. Forest Service personnel were available for comment Monday after an announcement that timber sales would be postponed indefinitely until Congress settles the federal budget standoff. The Friday statement to 450 timber purchasers said they would have to suspend work. Most were allowed seven days to finish cutting and hauling on timber sales already in progress.

Morris said a Forest Service supervisor was working with his ski area staff during the summer, but was pulled away for duty on the Lolo Creek Complex fire. No agency personnel have returned since, and the fate of his tree removal work is unknown.

“This is just general maintenance – not part of an expansion,” Morris said. “Ski areas all through the West have a lot of beetle-killed trees and they’ve been doing this for the last couple years.”

Lost Trail Powder Mountain ski area near Sula did get permission to finish a major timber project, according to Tony Colter of Sun Mountain Lumber in Deer Lodge. The resort has been thinning trees on 225 acres in its ski run terrain.

“I think it was allowed to go on because it was a ski area,” Colter said on Monday. “It would have disrupted the whole season if it had to be shut down. But we’ve got a couple other sales that are shut.”

Colter said a Bureau of Land Management sale has been allowed to finish because all the logs were already decked and ready for hauling out of the woods. But a Forest Service project was ordered to suspend work as of Friday.

“That’s an issue because we have to be out of there by Dec. 1,” Colter said. “That area gets heavy snowmobile use. So the project may be extended until next year.”

Pyramid Mountain Lumber Co. in Seeley Lake didn’t have any ski area projects, but it’s trying to finish its two Forest Service sales currently in progress.

“The direction from the Washington (D.C.) office is to pretty much wrap up everything by next Monday,” Pyramid resource manager Gordy Sanders said. “We may have a little latitude, but it has to have approval from Washington. On the Larry Bass sale (west of Stevensville), all the logs should be hauled by this weekend. We still have to do some erosion control and road maintenance before winter.”

Sanders said logs from a sale in the Clearwater National Forest near Lolo Pass might be left on the ground over the winter if the delay lasts too long. He was uncertain what that might do to the value of the timber, which is mostly beetle-killed salvage material.

Pacific Northwest Ski Area Association president John Gifford said his member resorts had been told they could finish projects where trees were already identified and ready to cut. The association represents Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort, along with numerous other ski areas in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

“Timber harvest has stopped for lumber companies, but as far as I know the ski areas can continue,” Gifford said on Monday. “They can’t start anything new, but can finish what they started this summer.”

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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(4) Comments

  1. K Johnson
    Report Abuse
    K Johnson - October 08, 2013 5:19 pm
    Good job, Chaney. It amazes me that reporters have to scrounge and grovel and leak documentsto bring forward a story about how spending slashes will ultimately affect public land use. Think of all the small timber sales, post and poles, firewood permitting and theft, skiing, hunting, interagency wildlife management and emergency rescue contributions, camping, christmas trees, grazing permits, keeping roads and trails clear of blowdown and washouts, streams open, student and formal agency research and outreach, Lubrecht, Yellow Bay, outhouses and campgrounds clean, vandalism and trash trash trash. without a public employee presence we can expect a massive influx of petroleum combustion recreation, target practice, poaching, Rainbow and Burning Man festivities every weekend and a general invasion of squatters. And of course: the fires. An this is all just off the top of my head. As time goes on, this will all become more apparent.

    I believe the military habit of keeping hush pervades civil government service too, and not without reason - it's functional in its own way, but it's crippling us now. But none of us FS, NPS, BLM F&W Dept of Ag, etc, can say what is really at stake as the sequester, shutdown debt ceiling arguments grind on. the effects will we at times glaring, but mostly insidious.
    Thank you for your dedicated work Mr. Chaney

    K Johnson
    Missoula
    Retired FS, NPS
  2. Matthew Koehler
    Report Abuse
    Matthew Koehler - October 08, 2013 7:37 am
    Honestly, anonymous-posting "flowergirl."
  3. msonelson
    Report Abuse
    msonelson - October 08, 2013 7:36 am
    Well, flower girl. I'm not quite sure what you think America was / is, but it wasn't / isn't government for the "little" people. By the way, it isn't just Obama, or as you put it "the OBAMA". The exalted Romneys enriched themselves and their pals at public expense. You just don't hear about it because he lost in the big game.
  4. flowergirl
    Report Abuse
    flowergirl - October 07, 2013 9:15 pm
    Really??? The ski areas can continue to log, but the lumber companies cannot???I guess the rich tourists can still come here to ski, but the working man who makes sure they have somewhere to go for fun will be out of a job........all Federal logging jobs will be shut down, but thedarn golf course at Camp David will be open for his highness, the OBAMA......our country is in a world of hurt, and the administration seems to want to ensure that us "little" people are hurt the worst.............this in no longer America
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