BILLINGS, Mont. — The U.S. Forest Service is considering allowing logging along a scenic highway leading to Yellowstone National Park to remove insect-infested trees and reduce fire danger.
The Billings Gazette reported Thursday the plan to cut timber in northwestern Wyoming near the Montana border would require the Forest Service to suspend its standards for preserving scenic views.
Logging would take place along a 9-mile stretch of Wyoming Highway 296, also called the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. The highway leads from Cody, Wyoming, to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
The logging would affect about 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) in the Shoshone National Forest.
Western spruce budworms are killing trees near homes. The Forest Service says that makes it harder to protect against wildfire and increases the threat of high-intensity fires.
Some researchers dispute the impact of insect-killed trees on fire.
Forest managers also say dead trees are more prone to fall than live ones, threatening firefighters who work near them.
The Forest Service is taking public comment on the plan until Dec. 14.
An agency analysis said the impact of logging on trout habitat would be minimal compared with the effects of a wildfire. The agency said elk, moose and deer habitat could be improved because removing big trees would promote the growth of smaller vegetation that the animals eat.
Grizzly bears would be affected during tree-cutting, which would be spread over four years and would take place in a small part of their habitat, the agency stated.
No logging would take place in critical habitat for lynx and wolverines, the Forest Service said.
Logging would be less expensive and have more economic benefits than lighting a prescribed burn to destroy the trees, the agency said.
Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com