‘Meet your Forest’: Examining the ruins from the pine beetle
All across Grand County a plethora of dead lodgepole pine trees litter both private and public property, punctuating the green landscape with the aftermath of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
This epidemic is the topic of the “Meet Your Forest” speaker series hosted by the U.S. Forest Service in an effort to educate people about the mountain pine beetle and creating and maintaining healthy forests.
The lecture, led by Jon Morrissey and Brian Slagle of the Sulphur Ranger District, included a history of the area and focused on the pine beetle impact and what can be done to prevent another epidemic.
“A lot of people have questions that we get every year,” Slagle said. “We’re trying to reach as many people as we can. One big reason we are part of this series is education, letting people know what we’ve done.”
The pine beetle epidemic began in the 1990s and affected 4 million acres in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming. Pine beetles are native to the area, but Morrissey said the crowded and older tree population contributed heavily to increasing their population and causing an infestation.
“So before when we had millions of acres of over-dense and over-mature trees, (the beetles) only had to fly 20 to 30 feet to get to another tree, which made it really easy and it kept going and going,” Morrissey said. “Now they don’t have the habitat they did before.”
Kathy and Mike Saraceno, who own a home in Grand Lake, came to the lecture to learn how to protect their property, not just from pine beetles but also from the fire hazards caused by the dead lodgepole pines.
“We have an acre and we’ve been cutting down the dead trees from the beetles and we’re trying to thin and we just wanted more information to make sure we were protecting our acre as well as we could,” Kathy Saraceno said.
After the lecture, attendants could visit an area of national forest land where the U.S. Forest Service had implemented measures to prevent another infestation of pine beetles, including thinning the area of trees and spraying larger trees, which attract the pine beetles, with special chemicals to protect them.
Morrissey said the priority for the U.S. Forest Service is to cultivate the forest in a way that minimizes the damage pine beetles can do.
“I don’t think we have to worry too much about the beetles in our lifetime, because we just don’t have that much habitat left for them,” Morrissey said. “But 70 years from now we may see the beetles come back in, in bigger numbers. We try to set it up better so that there’s a better mosaic 100 years from now than the one we had from what happened in the 1800s with the mining and wildfires burning uncontrolled.”
Slagle recommends that property owners who want to mitigate pine beetle damage can spray their trees with insecticides specific to bark beetle control in the spring and early summer before June, when the beetles lay larvae in the trees. He cautions that it can be a labor and cost intensive project and only works on trees that are not already infested.
“You’ve got to do it early, if the beetle is already there it’s too late,” Slagle said.
Slagle and Morrissey will be hosting an encore presentation at the Granby Public Library on Aug. 24 at 9 a.m.
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