Forest Service describes economic impact of Red's treefall

The massive November treefall in Reds Meadow might not be the total disaster some might think it is.

True, there are “tens of thousands” of downed trees, but clearing the campgrounds and trails might become somewhat of an economic boon, according to Sue Farley, the Inyo Forest Mammoth District vegetation management planner.

“With all the work, we will be having multiple contracts available,” she told the Mammoth Town Council Wednesday evening, “so there will be an opportunity for local contractors to bid on this work. 

“I’ve had calls from local contractors to be put on our local contact lists.  During our public comment period for the public to relay concerns and thoughts about fuels reduction, there were two major themes that we heard from folks here in the community: One was that contractors were looking for work and that residents were looking for firewood. 

“So we’re really cognizant of that, and we’re working hard to make sure we have opportunities for the contractors who work here.”

The scope of the work is almost beyond imagination.

To open a minimum number of campgrounds, both on National Forest Service land as well as National Park Service lands around Devils Postpile, workers have begun to descend in swarms.

What that means for the summer is a lot of traffic, the constant sounds of chainsaws and other work-related noise.

“All that work will increase traffic down there,” Farley said. “We’ll have trucks taking the wood product out, we’ll have contractors bringing in equipment and their employee vehicles, and trucks to groom the trails for the repair work that needs to occur.”

As for the total bill, Farley said she expects the costs of the work to be balanced by the sheer amount of wood product that is heaped in the area.

“People are asking for firewood, for both commercial and public firewood and for saw logs. There are some big trees that came down, and they can be taken to the mill for this value product and perhaps the chips could be shared with the ski area for purposes of erosion control.

“The value of the wood product will offset the labor costs.”

Even so, she said the area is in very bad shape.

“We know we have damage to literally every campground down there. We’ve seen buildings crushed, utility lines pulled up out of the ground with the roots of the trees that were tipped over, and picnic tables and bear boxes in the campgrounds have been crushed.

“But our goal remains to open as many campgrounds and trails to the public as early as possible.”