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Treasure Hill wildfire mitigation efforts wrapping up - for now

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Park City's Treasure Hill area is getting some forest management to reduce wildfire risk.

A year ago, the Park City Council approved a contract for wildfire mitigation and forest health work for some 55 acres of the Treasure Hill open space. The first phase is nearly complete – with more work to come.

Park City Municipal is spending about $4,000 an acre to not only clear forest deadfall, but also identify future risks and what steps are needed in the coming years for wildfire mitigation within city limits.

Park City open space and trails manager Heinrich Deters says crews worked on the acreage that needed it the most this year, but there are still several phases to go. Another contract will be awarded this fall with work shifting to Daly Canyon, Ontario and Prospect Ridges.

There is only one business that does this work locally and that’s Alpine Forestry, owned by David Telian. Telian says the first step was to decide which trees stay and which ones needed to come down.

And while he had as many as 20 people working on different aspects of the Treasure project, he says there’s still a lot more to do...only 55 of the more than 104 acres that are part of the Treasure open space were cleared this spring and summer.

“Some short term goals kind of get into the phase 3, 4, 5 range and then longer term goals you know, we'll be spacing work out in kind of larger blocks of time but the next move for this parcel really is to be burning these piles that are that are up there right now and once those piles are burnt and the burn areas rehabbed next spring that will complete phase one.”

His assessment of the property is that it’s pretty bad shape.

“Park City is kind of waking up to and turning the corner on having to start to pay attention more to that and, you know, implement some best practices, and start to monitor and be more attentive to the forest health. We're seeing decline across the Wasatch back in certain conifer species, aspen stands. But it's a long game here. And, you know, we'll be consistently monitoring these zones and kind of seeing how those field treatments are taking effect and how the forest is responding.”

A lot of the problems throughout Utah forests he says is due to drought.

“A lot of forest decline in different species can be traced to drought,” Telian said. “And I would say that, yeah, if there was one thing that we could point to is the drought conditions that that Utah has been in for a while. This summer, honestly has just been wonderful for the area with the consistent showers we've had and you know, things are staying green and growing and, and we're already seeing those changes in certain forests that we work in. The water makes the biggest difference.”

Once the weather gets cool enough and there’s a blanket of snow on the ground, he says crews will get back out and start burning the piles along the Treasure hillside.

“The burn process is intentionally not 100% everything from every pile is consumed. A little bit of char on the hillside is actually really important for the soil. And again, back to that forest ecosystem process. Most piles burn down about 80 to 90% of its of its built size. And we come back the following spring, and, and kind of do some work where that pile was and reseed that area to just kind of revegetate it, stabilize it.”

The area he added will be reseeded with native plants to keep invasive weeds from spreading.

Tough but fair, Leslie is the woman most of Park City wakes up with every weekday morning. Leslie has been at KPCW since 1990 and her years at KPCW have given her depth and insight, guiding her as she asks local leaders and citizens the questions on everyone’s minds during the live interviews of the Local News Hour.