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That Vacuuming You Hear on Bald Mountain Could Stave Off Wildfire
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Saturday, July 16, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

The bird calls one might normally hear climbing the bottom half of the Bald Mountain Trail have been drowned out this week by what sounds like a persistent vacuum cleaner.

Indeed, workers are in the midst of cleaning the woods of Baldy.

Machines clambered across a slope in Frenchman’s Gulch Thursday morning, cutting down diseased and dead trees and stripping limbs away so a logging truck could haul the 20-foot-tall timber out of the area.

The work, which began this week, is part of an ambitious project to treat 6,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land—half of which is on Bald Mountain.

The Bald Mountain Stewardship Project is a joint five-to 7-year partnership between Sun Valley Company, the National Forest Foundation, U.S. Forest and Bureau of Land Management to mitigate fire risk and improve the health of the forest, which indirectly protects the local economy and its viewshed.

The public-private partnership was conceived and facilitated by the National Forest Foundation in 2015 following the 2013 Beaver Creek fire which threatened communities in the Wood River Valley.

This summer French Connection and the Traverse trail, which connects the River Run trail to the Warm Springs trail, will be closed to hiking and biking while the work is being done.

The Bald Mountain Trail will be closed to bikes. However, hikers will still be able to access the 5.2-mile Bald Mountain Trail to the top of the mountain or to the Roundhouse Connector, which traverses several ski slopes to the gondola.

Come winter skiers will benefit from new terrain for glade skiing in the Frenchman and Warm Springs areas of Baldy.

  • The project is an expensive one and partners hope the community will buy in by making donations to the Bald Mountain Stewardship Fund, which is held by the National Forest Foundation. The Foundation leverages private and public funding for forest conservation and fish and wildlife habitat projects. Donations may be made at Bigwood Bread in Ketchum.
  • Proceeds from the Aug. 17 River Run Summer Series concert from 4 to 7 p.m. will go to the Bald Mountain Stewardship Project. The Pisten Bullys will jam on stage; Norco bikes will provide free bike demos that evening and representatives of the National Forest Foundation will offer a hands-on activity to teach about reforestation.
  • Community members also are invited to plant seedlings on Bald Mountain to help with reforestation efforts on Oct. 5.

Community members already have been involved in removing noxious weeds and stapling MHC packets to trees to deter insect infestations.

The Bald Mountain Stewardship Project will donate 240 cords of firewood harvested in this year’s project to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe to heat the homes of community elders living in Duck Valley near the Idaho-Nevada line. About 90 percent of the homes there rely on a wood-burning stoves as their primary home heating source.

An additional 240 cords will be delivered to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe at Fort Hall.

Any excess wood not going to the National Forest Foundation’s Wood for Life program for indigenous populations will be sold at an inexpensive price to support local needs with proceeds reinvested into the Bald Mountain Stewardship Project for 2023.

Happily, the Bald Mountain Stewardship Project received $643,975 from the highly competitive national Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership Program this year. Additional funding will follow over the next two years for a three-year project investment of $2.5 million, according to Dani Southard, director of the Northern Rockies-National Forest Foundation.

“This is a valuable federal investment in the valley that we’ll continue to leverage and put to the work for the benefit of public and private lands all across the valley,” said Lance Davisson, owner of The Keystone Concept.

“The community has worked hard to envision this project and has invested significantly to bring it to fruition. The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership is a nationally competitive program and we are excited to see this locally-built project elevated to a national level,” said Southard.

Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said the money will help tackle landscape-wide resource management initiatives across boundaries.

“We have made good progress to reduce fuel loads and improve forest health on the Bald Mountain Ski Area over the past several years, and we need to continue with that effort where future wildfires threaten our communities. Ecological restoration is a key consideration as changing climate affects how and where we live,” he added.

To date more than 60 individuals and organizations, including the Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, Natural Resource Conservation Service, private landowners and Blaine County cities, have contributed more than 500 hours toward project planning and volunteerism.

Want to learn more? Contact Dani Southard, the local representative for the National Forest Foundation, at dsouthard@nationalforests.org or 208-720-0957.

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