Dear Editor,

You may have noticed a big change along the Loop Road, near the Warner Lake turnoff. This area is part of an ongoing hazardous fuels reduction project called West Slope Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The purpose of the project is to thin abundant, flammable vegetation in a high fire danger area, reducing the risk to life and property and the potential for a difficult-to-control fire.

In 2015, the first part of this project reduced fuel along the Loop Road from the Pack Creek side, and around the private property in the Whispering Oaks area. The next part of the plan included contracted mastication. Mastication is accomplished by machines with special equipment that chew woody vegetation, reducing available fuel.

A contract for the work was awarded in June, 2016. Almost all units were completed by the end of July. Work on the last unit started in September along the Loop Road. Further work on this project is planned for the next several years.

Forest Service managers recognize that work on the last unit did not go as envisioned. The visual impacts were greater than intended. However, the district is addressing these concerns. Recently, specialists involved with this project took a field trip to the site, and discussed how things would be done differently in the future to achieve a more satisfactory visual result. Since the field trip, mastication treatment on the western side of the unit has included more isolated tree islands for wildlife and visual improvement.

And what will happen now? Specialists all agree that mastication treatment reduced fire danger for private property and infrastructure in this area. The reduction in fuels will open up the landscape to receive more water and sunlight. With adequate moisture during the winter season, you will see an amazing flush of new plant growth in the area. Less flammable shrubs will grow quickly, filling in bare areas. Already, new growth is noticeable in areas treated in 2015 and earlier this year.

Thank you for your interest and concern; it is appreciated. We want to continue keeping lines of communication open with all forest users. We do care about the unintended effects that our actions may cause. If you have questions or other concerns, please feel free to call me at the district office at 435-259-7155.