Forest Service crews will mark the trees that will fall along the Highway 20 corridor starting Monday, April 15.

Sisters District Ranger Ian Reid told The Nugget on April 8 that Goss Co. LLC had been awarded a contract for $225,300 to do the work. They are expected to start removing some 2,100 trees near 20 west of Sisters on Monday, April 29. The trees were killed or damaged by the application of the herbicide Perspective.

“Part of the proposal is a lot of hand-falling, so there will be a lot of workers out there — skilled workers,” Reid told The Nugget.

In addition to falling, there will be a limited amount of tree-topping to leave wildlife snags in the area.

The problem with the trees near Sisters began developing from 2013 to 2015 when Perspective was used along the highway corridor to remove brush within the Oregon Department of Transportation right of way. The herbicide harmed ponderosa pines and other trees in the area where it was applied.

An assessment by the U.S. Forest Service determined that thousands of trees in the corridor west of Sisters are dead or dying.

The disposition of the forest product to be derived from the felled trees remains to be determined.

“It’s going to depend on where ODA (Oregon Department of Agriculture) lands on their permanent rule,” Reid said. “Our interest, certainly, is to be able to sell it as saw timber.”

Implementation of a statewide rule that would limit the use of the weed killer believed responsible for the death of the trees along Highway 20 was stalled last month by a last-minute request from Bayer, the company that produces it. The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s new permanent rule slated to be adopted on March 22 would prohibit the use of the chemical in areas where the roots of desirable trees — like ponderosa pines — may be present.

The delay means that a new permanent rule cannot be implemented until April 12 at the very earliest.

Reid explained that any restrictions on disposition of the forest product will be included in a prospectus for bidders on a sale of the downed trees. The logs will be decked at several staging areas around Sisters. As soon as those decks are complete, the timber will go up for sale. Reid anticipates the sale will go forward this spring — early summer at the latest.

“You don’t want the wood to check or lose value,” he said.

He said that the Ranger District is eager to get the project underway and “make the best out of an unfortunate situation.”

Oregon Department of Transportation staff will provide traffic control during the project, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Motorists can expect to see equipment and work crews close to the highway and should anticipate delays up to 20 minutes. The project is scheduled to be completed by May 22.

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