Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Over five years after they were scorched by wildfire, some 5,000 dead trees in the Mt. Hood National Forest will soon be coming down.
Starting in early September, logging operations will commence along both sides of the 9-mile-long Cloud Cap Road in the Hood River Ranger District of the Mt. Hood National Forest. The point of the project is to remove snags and other hazard trees that were killed or damaged by the Gnarl Ridge fire, which was ignited via lightning strike in early August 2008.
Mt. Hood National Forest spokesperson Laura Pramuk said after a wildfire burns through forestland, it usually takes several years before the stability of the trees becomes compromised.
“It’s a slow process,” she explained. “Generally, it’s four to five years before the trees are starting to fall. They’re becoming less firm.”
This past spring the Forest Service went to clear Cloud Cap Road for the upcoming summer recreation season, when many people use the road located on the northeastern flanks of Mount Hood to visit the historic Cloud Cap Inn. However, rangers soon discovered “quite a few trees across the road,” according to Pramuk — snags createdby the Gnarl Ridge fire.
Originally, the Forest Service planned on leading tours at Cloud Cap Inn this summer, but those plans were canceled and the road to Cloud Cap was closed to all forms of travel, with the exception of emergency personnel.
“It’s risk management,” Pramuk explained. “You can’t say with any certainty when a tree is going to fall.”
Timberman Inc. out of Parkdale was recently awarded the bid for the $70,000 project, which will include hazard tree falling, decking and slash treatment. Hazard trees will be felled within 50 feet of both sides of Cloud Cap Road and felled logs meeting the proper criteria will be used in watershed restoration projects to help create fish habitat. Logging is expected to be completed by November, after which the Forest Service will re-evaluate the hazard level. The road will likely not be reopened until at least late next spring or early summer.
While Cloud Cap Road remains closed, hikers can still get to Cloud Cap Inn via the Tilly Jane Trail (#643). The Tilly Jane trailhead is located at the closure gate at the bottom of Forest Service Road 3512 near the Cooper Spur Ski Area. Pramuk advised those deciding to hike on the Tilly Jane Trail should not stray from the trail, especially on windy days, as the Gnarl Ridge fire also burned through this area and created hazard trees that may pose a risk of falling.
Those with questions about the closure and the hazard tree mitigation are advised to call Hood River District Ranger Janeen Tervo at 541-352-1201.