Loggers worry about call for closing road to gas-drilling traffic

The Colorado Timber Industry Association has weighed in on the debate over whether oil and gas traffic should be kept off a road near Glenwood Springs, fearing that such a prohibition would affect logging trucks as well.

That consequence would be ill-advised at a time when bark beetle outbreaks and wildfire pose a threat to area forests, the association says.

Such road restrictions in Colorado “would derail removing excess fuels and many community protections and wildfire risk mitigation efforts either underway or planned for future years,” the group’s president, Carl Spaulding, said in a letter to the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board.

Spaulding wrote the letter in regard to Garfield County Road 117, or Four-Mile Road, which runs southwest of Glenwood Springs to Sunlight Mountain Resort and to national forest lands.

Some residents along the road and the city of Glenwood Springs are concerned that it could end up being used by energy company SG Interests in connection with proposed drilling on leases the company owns on the forest. The leases are in an area colloquially referred to as Thompson Divide, which stretches south to the McClure Pass area and a coalition is trying to protect from drilling.

Garfield County commissioners also have said they want drilling kept off the road. But Commissioner Mike Samson said this week that there’s no official process for designating haul routes in the county, and it only has the authority to impose limits on things such as the weight and size of trucks on roads.

Spaulding wrote, “It would seem that any action taken to restrict uses of the road by other industries has the potential to also harm the operations of our forest products companies conducting work in the Thompson Divide area.”

A timber sale recently was completed in the greater Thompson Divide area, he wrote. Four-Mile Road has been used for years by logging traffic, and Spaulding said that recent spruce beetle migration “likely means ongoing timber activities in the region with (the road) functioning as the reasonable point of access.”

Samson this week didn’t suggest the county was interested in trying to use weight limits to keep drilling traffic off Four-Mile Road. Rather, he talked about the limits facing the county in trying to address the issue. He also pointed to the impacts targeting one industry could have on others, saying stricter weight limits could end up keeping everything from garbage to business service trucks off the road.

Kirby Wynn, the county’s oil and gas liaison, told the energy board Thursday that while the county doesn’t have designated haul routes, it has preferred routes it asks energy companies to use, and they generally comply voluntarily.

SG previously has questioned the practicality of reaching its leases via a longer route south of Silt that would involve much more use of forest roads.


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