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Excess timber comes just in time for rising energy costs
Helicopters removed timber from Intermountain in West Vail last year - this year the timber is being removed from the North side of West Vail in order to create definsible space around homes in our area. The piles of wood will be ignited in a controlled burn next year (or later), while the larger logs are available for the public to remove (with a permit).
Photo by Steve Boyd 

Excess timber comes just in time for rising energy costs

By Tom Boyd

June 17, 2008 —  It’s summer in Vail, which means I’m already preparing for next winter – I’m eyeing a new pair of skis and wondering how much powder will come along next season, but I’m also thinking about heating the house in a year when energy prices are expected to be higher than ever before.

After all, if I want to be able to afford that new pair of skis, I’ve got to be able to pay my energy bill first.

The average six-month bill in 2007-2008 was $998. Next winter’s estimated average bill will be $1,223, this according to today’s edition of the Rocky Mountain News.

When I read that news and look out the window of RealVail’s West Vail branch office, which sits adjacent to Forest Service land, I thank my lucky stars that the Boyd’s West Vail compound is one of the few homes allowed to burn wood for home heating. Built in the early 1970s, our house was the second built in West Vail, and escapes wood-burning restrictions due to a grandfather clause.

And wood is not in short supply. Even as I look out my window in West Vail, all I see is pile upon pile of wood, much of it dry and ready for the fireplace.

The Eagle River Fire Protection District, in conjunction with the Forest Service, recently came to our neighborhood and chopped down a huge amount of dead-standing timber near our house, where beetle-kill had ravaged the lodgepole pines. The measures were taken to create a defensible space around our West Vail neighborhood, a wise and thoughtful effort to make Vail’s homes safe as we head toward an inevitable blaze sometime in the next 10 to 20 years.

Once my family obtains a permit from the Forest Service, all we need do is assemble the Boyd family men, drag that lumber out of the forest, and stack it up in anticipation of another big winter.

Although it’s sad to see some of my favorite trees from my childhood chopped into lumber, not all the trees are gone – the spruce trees remain. The Forest Service told us that one tree, an Engleman Spruce which towers above all the others, is probably around 300 years old.

So, while we lost our hillside forest, we gained a bit of interesting information about our spruce trees, and beyond that we gained inexpensive heat for many years to come.



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