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Forest thinning project begins Monday

ASHLAND ' Logging trucks will soon rumble through town, and lower Ashland Creek watershed recreation areas will close Monday as a thinning project begins on city-owned forestland.

Years of fire suppression in the watershed have led to dense tree stands suffering from insect infestation and disease. Thinning the trees will lower the wildfire risk and help remaining trees by reducing competition for water, nutrients and sunlight, project proponents said.

Ground crews will cut marked trees Monday through April 5, working six- to seven-hour shifts from dawn to dusk, Monday through Saturday.

From dawn to dusk April 5 through April 17, helicopters will fly logs out seven days a week. Also starting April 5, logging trucks will begin hauling out felled trees.

The helicopters will deliver the logs on weekdays to a landing area at the Granite Street quarry above Lithia Park. On weekends, the helicopters will use a landing area at milepost 3.5 on Forest Service Road 2060 higher in the Ashland Watershed.

— Logging trucks will haul 15 to 20 loads per day from the landing areas down Granite Street to North Main Street, through town to Ashland Street and out to Interstate 5 for delivery to a Boise mill in White City. The city expects the work, which is weather-dependent, to be done by April 17.

The area will be closed to recreation for the duration of the project beginning Monday. Granite Street will be closed at its intersection with Glenview Drive. Notices of road and trail closures also will be posted at Forest Service Road 2060 (at milepost 3.55), the Water Plant Access Road, Hitt Road, West Fork Ashland Creek, Four Corners, Alice-in-Wonderland trailheads, Waterline Hiking Trail, BTI Trail, Granite Street granite pit and Glenview granite pit.

The city has posted project information at on the Web.

More than 96 percent of the trees to be cut are 18 inches in diameter or less. The majority of the larger trees are dead.

About 400,000 to 500,000 board feet will be removed, said Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief Keith Woodley, who worked with the Ashland Forest Lands Commission on the plan.

The city awarded the mill bid to Boise, which will pay &

36;450 to &

36;626 per thousand board feet for the timber.

Superior Helicopter LLC will charge &

36;581 per thousand board feet to remove logs ' putting the project in break-even territory.

Boise will pay more or less per log depending on the length, condition and species of the felled trees.

The project was unanimously approved by the commission and the Ashland City Council last fall.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456.