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GMUG releases strategy to treat insect, disease-affected trees

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Last week, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and environmental document that outlines a multi-year project to treat insect and disease-affected spruce and aspen stands on 120,000 acres throughout the forests. The final EIS for the project, referred to as the Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response (SBEADMR), identifies priority areas for various mechanical and prescribed fire treatments to reduce the threats of falling, dead (hazard) trees, to salvage dead and dying trees, and to improve stand diversity and resilience.

The GMUG National Forests have approximately 250,000 acres of Engelmann spruce and 230,000 acres of aspen forests that have experienced substantial mortality from insect and disease agents. This amounts to approximately 30 percent of each of these forest types. The results of the 2015 forest health aerial detection survey indicate fewer new acres were affected in 2015. The spruce beetle continues to spread rapidly in the southern portion of the Gunnison Basin and other areas on the GMUG. The final 2015 data analysis and results of the aerial detection surveys are available on the Rocky Mountain Forest Health website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/USFSR2ForestHealth.

Over the last four years, forest staff has worked closely with the public, industry, environmental groups, scientists and resource specialists to plan a response to the beetle epidemic and aspen decline. The selected action is a mix of various mechanical and prescribed fire treatments to meet the project objectives: human safety, salvage of merchantable timber, hazardous fuel reduction in the wildland urban interface, forest regeneration and increased forest resiliency. This alternative addresses many of the concerns the public submitted during the draft EIS comment period. One of the primary public concerns was regarding the initial scale of project area, which encompassed over 700,000 acres of the forests. GMUG responded with a deliberate process to prioritize the landscape into meaningful treatment areas. The final treatment areas (120,000 acres) will occur within 207,600 acres analyzed throughout the GMUG

"We have developed a good working relationship with a group of citizens, scientists and partners who have been highly engaged throughout this lengthy planning process. We believe the end result is really the beginning of our work -- it showcases our commitment to continued public engagement as we move from planning to implementation" said GMUG National forest supervisor Scott Armentrout. "In response to the public's concerns, we balanced the need for targeted management, for mitigating environmental impacts, and for involving the public" he added.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement and the Draft Record of Decision may be viewed on the GMUG National Forest website:http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/SBEADMR

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