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Expect logging trucks to rumble through Ashland

ASHLAND — Log trucks will begin hauling timber from the Ashland Watershed's Horn Gap area and exiting the city through downtown starting in mid-June.

Four to five trucks will drive the route each day for about a month, supporting a commercial thinning project west of Forest Service Road 2060, said Chris Chambers, Ashland Fire & Rescue's forest resource specialist.

The project was set to be awarded late Friday or early this week, said Chambers. Two bids were received by Lomakatsi Restoration Project, which is overseeing the work, but Chambers would not say who submitted the bids.

Lomakatsi did not return a phone message left late Friday, nor did a representative of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

"A lot of the details haven't quite been nailed down yet," said Chambers, including the exact hauling route.

A release from AFR said, "Logging trucks will drive down Granite Street in Ashland adjacent to Lithia Park and travel through the downtown area on their way to the mill."

The 100-acre unit is in the southern portion of AFR's designated Block 2 of the watershed, on its western ridge, above FS Road 2060, said Chambers.

One release from AFR said the logs would be hauled to a "local mill."

He did not have an estimate for how much the project will cost Lomakatsi, but it will be paid for out of about $6.2 million of federal stimulus funding secured through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, he said.

The city of Ashland, the Nature Conservancy, Forest Service and Lomakatsi Restoration Project — a nonprofit that restores forests and creeks — teamed up on the 10-year, $5.1 million Ashland Forest Resiliency Project to reduce wildfire fuels on 7,600 acres of Forest Service land in the Ashland watershed in 2010. The partners kicked in funding for the project, but most of it is paid for with federal stimulus dollars.

The "environmentally sensitive logging" will reduce the risk of severe wildfire in the watershed, said Chambers. Because the unit is on a slope of less than 20 percent, ground equipment will be used to cut and remove the trees, he said.

Primarily Douglas firs will be removed because they are choking out the more fire-resistant black oaks and sugar and Ponderosa pines that once thrived in the area, Chambers said.

A helicopter logging project on about 600 acres of the watershed will open for bids in about a week, said Chambers.

About half of that unit lies in Block 1 of the watershed at the end of Granite Street and west of Ashland Creek to Forest Service Road 300; the other half is in Block 2, he said. The project is estimated to cost $1.3 million, said Chambers.

"With the helicopter logging, it's not very realistic that it will start this summer," Chambers said. "I don't see us signing a contract before Fourth of July."

Considering fire season, the project will likely be held until next year, he said.

Crews have been working in the watershed since mid-2010 to thin small-diameter trees and brush, which act as ladder fuels for ground fire to climb to the tops of larger trees and develop into catastrophic crown fires.

A century of fire suppression has left the forest with overcrowded stands of trees and unnaturally thick undergrowth, Chambers said.

Sam Wheeler isa reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. He can be reached at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.