BELLINGHAM - Logging began this week on 215 acres on Galbraith Mountain, and some trails in the popular mountain biking area will be off-limits during the project.
Janicki Logging will do the work for Bow-based Polygon Financial, which owns 3,015 forested acres on Galbraith.
Some cutting has occurred this week, and the first trees will be removed Tuesday, Jan. 18, said Blair Murray, owner of Tin Rock Management, which is managing the land for Polygon.
The company has a permit from the Department of Natural Resources to log about 280 acres.
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Located just east of Bellingham city limits, Galbraith is the common name for Lookout Mountain.
The working commercial forest also is home to a network of about 44 miles of renowned mountain-biking trails created and maintained by the WHIMPs Mountain Bike Coalition, in an agreement with Polygon.
"We'll do everything reasonably possible to keep the mountain open during the timber harvest," Murray said. "Our primary concern, of course, is the safety of everybody involved.
"We want to make sure that the recreating public stays out of the harvest area, avoid it at all cost during the harvest," he added.
The immediate logging area is west of Pipeline Road, and the trails to be affected first - such as Bunny, Kaya, Art's and Old Issues - are those geared toward inexperienced riders.
"It's going to be a bit of a blow, mainly to the more beginner riders. That's been traditionally the area we took newer riders, younger riders, people with less fitness because there wasn't extensive climbing involved to get to those trails," said Mark Peterson, president of WHIMPs.
Signs will be posted at the informational kiosk on Galbraith and pamphlets will be distributed to those who go near the harvest area. Over the years, the area also has become increasingly popular with runners and hikers.
None of the logging will occur in the Lake Whatcom watershed, Murray said, or on steep slopes. Logging also will not occur in two riparian areas, he added.
Of the total 215 acres, about half will be clear-cut and the remainder will be thinned, meaning 20 percent of trees will be taken.
Logging this year is part of a long-term plan to turn the holdings into a sustainable forestry program; once that has been accomplished, the plan is to log or thin an average of 60 acres a year in perpetuity, Murray said.
"(This) will be the biggest harvest that we will do for the next eight years," he said, adding that most of it will occur in the first half of 2011.
And then for the next seven or eight years, there will be thinning as part of the sustainable forestry program, Murray said.
Once the current logging project is completed, the affected trails in the area will be re-opened.
"We'll do everything reasonably possible to ensure that those trails are impacted as little as possible," Murray said. "Part of that is the concept of felling trees away from the trail rather than over the trail."
WHIMPs will go in and rebuild the trails that need it, Peterson said.
Logging on the mountain isn't new.
"They've gone through this before," Murray said of WHIMPs. "In fact, there's been much more intensive logging on the mountain at other times. They're used to building trails and retrieving trails from areas that have been previously logged."
WHIMPs' Peterson added: "This will be the fourth time that the mountain has seen some sort of significant impact from the harvest in the 20 years I've been involved in the organization. It's nothing new."
Larger trails of Wonderland and Keystone, for example, go through trees in an area clear-cut seven to eight years ago, Peterson said. Those trails were rebuilt after logging was completed.
Peterson also said that Polygon has been upfront about its timber-harvest plans.
Polygon became the owner of the Galbraith tract after Bellingham-based Trillium Corp. ceded the property to Polygon "in lieu of foreclosure" on Oct. 22, 2009.
MORE ON GALBRAITH LOGGING
People with questions about Polygon Financial of Bow's decision to log 215 acres on Galbraith Mountain may call Tin Rock Management at 360-318-7599. Polygon is the owner of 3,015 forested acres on Galbraith.