Between 10 and 15 truckloads of logs will be hauled daily starting around July 15, when logging begins on the Virginia Ridge Timber Sale. The logging will start on Wolf Creek, in the area closest to the Methow River. The sale calls for logging 671 acres in all, on Wolf Creek, Virginia Ridge below Sun Mountain Lodge, and a small unit near Mazama.
Will Logging & Construction, of Loomis, was the successful bidder in the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) timber sale.
DNR and Will Logging haven’t determined yet which section will be logged and treated next, according to Bob McKellar, assistant region manager for state lands for DNR’s Northeast region. Plans for the forest-thinning and logging project include a commitment not to do any logging that can be seen or heard from Sun Mountain Lodge until after Sept. 15, said McKellar.
Terms of the sale require all merchantable timber to be removed by mid-November, in part because some logs will be hauled to a processor via the North Cascades Highway. The other three purchasers are east of the valley. After that, DNR and the Will Logging will assess what treatments are necessary before snow, said McKellar.
It’s too early to say how they’ll proceed with the timber and other vegetation that’s too small to sell. Loggers may treat some of the slash using prescribed fire, most likely in late November and December, said McKellar. DNR hopes that some of the smaller-diameter wood can be chipped rather than burned, but it can be difficult to find a cost-efficient market for wood chips, said McKellar.
Could take years
Other than the commercial timber, there is no deadline for completing all phases of the sale. It could be four years before the entire project, including slash treating, is complete. The forest treatments include pruning small trees along roads and near homes, said McKellar.
As part of the agreement for the sale, contractors will periodically go to other parts of the valley to monitor the visual effects of the logging. The sale design calls for leaving trees in irregular clumps to mimic natural distribution, rather than leaving trees evenly spaced. Monitoring the visual effects from afar will allow workers to modify the project so that logged areas blend into the overall landscape, said McKellar.
When first proposed two years ago, the Virginia Ridge Timber Sale generated considerable concern about potential economic impacts on the valley’s tourism industry. People were also concerned that removing too many trees could dry out the forest and increase wildfire risk.
As a result, DNR revised the sale design to retain more trees per acre, and to leave the trees in naturally spaced clumps. There will be 40 trees per acre after logging is complete, as opposed to the current 150 trees per acre.