CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A helicopter logging operation set to begin Saturday in the Monongahela National Forest may cause traffic delays for drivers traveling the Highland Scenic Highway and will temporarily close a 1,000-acre tract of forest in the Red Spruce Knob area to hunters and anglers.
Logs cut in the Friel Laurel Timber Sale will be transported by helicopter to landings along the Highland Scenic Highway between the Cranberry Mountain Visitor Center and Slatyfork. About 2.5 million board feet of timber will be harvested in the operation, which is expected to take at least three to six weeks to complete, depending on weather conditions.
The Highland Scenic Highway, also known as W.Va. 150, may be closed for up to an hour at a time as logs are offloaded at the landings, according to Rondi Fischer, district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service's Marlinton-White Sulphur Springs Ranger District.
The area to be temporarily closed lies in Pocahontas County and is bounded by the Highland Scenic Highway, Williams River, Little Laurel Creek, the Monongahela National Forest boundary near Edray and Forest Road 115B. Williams River Road, also known as Forest Road 86, will remain open.
The timber sale involves 450 acres of timber thinning and a total of 117 acres of regeneration harvests, which involve small clearcuts. The timber sale was designed to improve oak stands and mast production.
Forest Service foresters chose to require the use of helicopters to remove harvested logs from the sale site "to minimize impact to the environment," Fischer said, taking into account steep terrain, soil moisture and other factors.
Oregon-based Columbia Helicopters, which has participated in previous timber harvests on the Monongahela, will be flying booms of logs from the timber sale site to the landings along the Highland Scenic Highway for Collins Hardwoods of Richwood.
In addition to experiencing possible traffic delays while the logs are being offloaded, those traveling on the Highlands Scenic Highway while the helicopter logging operation is in progress can expect heavy log truck traffic.
The closure of the timber sale area "is necessary to protect public safety," Fischer said. "While I regret any inconvenience this temporary closure causes, safety is foremost in my mind during this activity."
For more information, call Fischer or Amy Mullins at the Marlinton Ranger District office at 304-799-4334.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.