The Bald Mountain Stewardship Project is a large-scale, multi-year plan to improve forest health, reduce fuels and associated fire risk, and preserve recreational experiences on and around Bald Mountain. For the past five decades, there has been an ongoing effort by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Sun Valley Company to keep forests on the mountain healthy. However, a steady uptick in bark beetle populations combined with dense forests and dwarf mistletoe infestations have resulted in a steady uptick in forest die-offs.
In 2019, a group of community members came together with land management agencies to explore options to address growing concerns over the fate of Bald Mountain's forests. Facilitated by the National Forest Foundation, the group spent more than a year designing a strategy to increase the pace of the work on Bald Mountain while simultaneously involving the local communities in the effort. With that, the Bald Mountain Stewardship Project was born.
2022 marked the biggest year to date for work on Bald Mountain:
Contractors removed dead and dying trees from 80 acres of the mountain, doubling the acreage previously completed in a year. They implemented a unique steep slope method that allows for the removal of trees without the need to build new road systems and minimized impact on the soil and surrounding vegetation. This work also allowed a new glade run to be opened at Sun Valley Resort for skiers to enjoy.
Additionally, 240 acres received treatments with MCH (Methyl-cyclo-hexanone) bubble cap packets strategically stapled to healthy trees to protect Douglas-fir trees against bark beetle attacks. MCH is a naturally occurring pheromone of the Douglas-fir beetle that tells other individuals of the same species that a tree is fully occupied and "tricks" bark beetles into not attacking the tree, preventing large population outbreaks and subsequent forest die-off.
Lastly, student and community volunteers joined a professional planting crew on Bald Mountain to plant 3,000 new trees in areas severely impacted by tree die-off from bark beetles. Sun Valley Company then spread native seeds in strategic locations that will help to create a ground cover of native flowers, grasses, and shrubs and outcompete weed species from establishing.
One of the ongoing challenges for this project has been the utilization of the dead and dying wood removed from Bald Mountain. In 2022, the National Forest Foundation delivered a portion of the wood material to southern Idaho tribal communities through our Wood for Life Program.
This program connects small-diameter, lower-value timber from forest restoration efforts to indigenous communities that rely on wood to heat their homes through the winter months.
In 2022, the Wood for Life program supplied a total of 700 cords worth of firewood to the Shoshone Paiute and Shoshone Bannock Tribes. The wood is cut and distributed by the Tribal communities to elders and others in need. Additional wood that did not go into the Wood for Life program was sold at a minimal price to support local firewood markets, with all proceeds reinvested back into the project the following year.
All of this work would not have been possible without the support and financial contributions made by the local community. Bigwood Bread has been and continues to be a local champion for the efforts on Bald Mountain. For the past two years, owner George Golleher has built awareness about the project's importance while raising community contributions for the Bald Mountain Stewardship Fund.
These private contributions to the project provide a crucial financial match that is leveraged through federal funding agreements held by the National Forest Foundation and contributions from Sun Valley Company.
The Bald Mountain Stewardship Project is anticipated to take five to ten years to complete, with work occurring each year in strategic locations across the entire project area. Next up for 2023 are Cold Springs and Seattle Ridge forest health treatments.
Cover photo by Lynn Campion.
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