Trail Gulch Vegetation Management Project
The Trail Gulch Vegetation Management Project is expected to commercially harvest timber on up to 9,580 acres and applying fire on up to 8,421 acres of the 51,460 acres project area on the Conejos Peak Ranger District of the Rio Grande National Forest. The project area is located in the southernmost part of the Forest near the New Mexico border. The project will combine mechanical and prescribed fire treatments to lessen the impacts of anticipated future natural disturbance processes such as wildfire.
A large wildfire has the potential to produce more unfavorable effects in this area, which has been deprived of natural fire for many years. The treatments in the Trail Gulch Vegetation Management Project are designed to promote a healthier forest and reduce long-term fuel buildup, particularly around areas of the Forest adjacent to private lands.
The project also includes projects to improve watershed health conditions. The Trail Gulch Vegetation Management Project is within the Rio Chama Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.
It is anticipated that the project will be implemented over a period of 10 to 15 years, depending on funding availability.
Target fuels in the project area.
The types of treatments that will be considered for use on the project will include:
- Prescribed burning - both broadcast and slash pile burning
- Hand thinning or mastication
- Commercial timber harvesting
- Watershed improvement projects
Prescribed fire treatments will be used to reduce fuel accumulations, with priority given to areas where private lands border the National Forest. Prioritizing these areas to reduce fuels provides protection to private land values, communities, and structures, from wildfire.
The total project area is located near Osier and Fox Creek, Colorado with State Highway 17 bounding the project on the north and west, the Colorado state line on the south and a line from Fox Creek south to the state line on the east. The project area ranges in elevation from approximately 8,300 to 10,800 feet above sea level. Not all acres within the project area are being proposed for treatment. Only National Forest System land will be treated under this analysis. We are working with our multiple partners to encourage similar treatments on non-Forest Service lands in the area.
In July 2021, the Conejos Peak Ranger District sought public input on the proposal. This input was used to develop the issues to be addressed in the analysis. The project analysis, including required consultation with USDI Fish & Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act, has been completed.
The analysis and a draft Decision Notice were released for Administrative Review (36 CFR 218) in February 2022. Four objections were submitted to the proposal. Two of the objections were withdrawn and were set aside for review. A third was submitted after the closing date to submit objections and was set aside. One objection was carried froward through the Administrative Review process. At the close of the Administrative Review process the Objection Reviewing Officer provided the Deciding Official with two instructions related to clarifying how the project meets various aspects of the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment direction.
The final decision was signed by signed by District Ranger, Andrea Jones, on Thursday, October 27, 2022. This decision included the adjustments required by the Objection Reviewing Officer.
Link to the Trail Gulch Vegetation Management Project Decision Notice.
Visit the dedicated Trail Gulch Vegetation Management Project Record page for all information related to the project.
During the process, significant events will be posted on our Facebook page.