By Ann McCreary
Commercial logging planned for the South Summit area near Loup Loup Pass won’t take place this winter, leaving Nordic skiing on trails in the area unaffected this season.
The U.S. Forest Service is planning to award commercial logging contracts as part of a South Summit Forest and Fuels Project, and earlier this year officials said the logging might begin this winter.
However, an environmental assessment for the project is not expected to be completed until January, said project leader Megan Johnson of the Methow Valley Ranger District.
The timber harvesting will take place on 47,000 acres in the Methow district. Up to 7,300 acres of timber harvest in the South Summit area would be specifically restricted to winter logging in order to minimize damage to soil, according to the Forest Service project description.
Initial plans for the winter timber harvest called for plowing Forest Service Road No. 41 that is normally groomed for skiing in winter and provides primary access to the 46-kilometer South Summit Sno-Park trail system.
Methow District Ranger Mike Liu said the Forest Service has “made modifications in the original proposal to reduce some of the impacts to winter skiing in the South Summit area during winter logging operations.”
Johnson said details of the plan would be available when an environmental assessment is completed. That study is expected to be released in early January, she said.
Johnson said cross country skiing will continue at South Summit during the logging operations.
South Summit requires a Sno-Park pass to park at the trailhead, but there is no trail pass required and dogs are allowed on the trails. The area is groomed once a week by Loup Loup Ski Bowl under a contract with the state parks department.
In addition to the South Summit area, the Forest and Fuels Project will encompass forests in sub-watersheds east of Twisp including Lower Beaver Creek, Frazer Creek, Summit Creek, Benson Creek, Alder Creek-Methow River, Texas Creek –
Methow River, French Creek and Swamp Creek.
The timber harvesting is expected to produce about 7.5 million board feet of wood products for area sawmills, pulp mills, wood pellet manufacturers and electric generating facilities, according to the Forest Service. The project also includes thinning, prescribed burning and tree planting.