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Forests: Does salvage logging in beetle-killed forests make economic sense for the Forest Service?

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Dead lodgepoles have became a common sight in Colorado during the past few years, and a new study confirms that the Forest Service loses money on many salvage logging projects.

Study shows that strong timber markets make all the difference

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new Forest Service study confirms the conventional wisdom that, under current market conditions, salvage of beetle-killed timber in Colorado is not good for the agency’s bottom line.

The researchers evaluated potential potential revenues from harvesting standing timber killed by mountain pine beetle across the western United States. Positive net revenues are possible in regions with strong timber markets, including along the West Coast and in the northern Rockies.

The central Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming — which have the largest volume of standing dead timber — would not generate positive net revenues by salvaging beetle-killed timber, the study concluded. In Colorado, there have been efforts to create more markets for beetle-killed wood, but there doesn’t yet seem to be a critical mass of demand.

The study did not examine other factors that might influence land management decisions, such as fire risk reduction, improvement in stand conditions, or jobs. Continue reading

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Colorado: Summit County forests make big comeback after pine beetle epidemic

Forest Service replanting key areas, monitoring regeneration

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Just a few years after logging projects, forests are making a comeback in areas around Pine Cove campground, near Frisco, Colorado.

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A temporary logging road along the Frisco Peninsula.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With mountain pine beetle populations at their lowest level in 30 years, it’s safe to say that the forest health crisis actually turned out to be a much-needed catharsis for Summit County’s overgrown lodgepole pine forests.

U.S. Forest Service researchers are finding that most of the area hit by the bugs are showing encouraging signs of regrowth. Logged areas are primarily seeing dense lodgepole regeneration, along with some aspens. Non-logged areas are also growing back, and some early data suggests that subalpine fir may replace lodepole pines as the dominant species.

Along with continued logging operations in red zone areas, the U.S. Forest Service has been busy replanting some key areas, notably around campgrounds. Altogether, the agency has planted about a quarter of a million seedlings across the White River National Forest in the last three to four years, according to silviculturist Jan Burke, who has tracked the arc of the beetle infestation. Just this past summer, the Forest Service, with help from volunteer partners, planted about 90,000 trees. Continue reading

Colorado: Pine beetle epidemic wanes

Spruce beetle infestation grows in southwestern mountains

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Aerial surveys show that spruce beetles are spreading in SW Colorado, while pine beetles slow their attack in the northern and central part of the state.

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The spread of mountain pine beetles slowed to levels last seen in 2003.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Mountain pine beetle activity in Colorado dropped dramatically in 2012, to the lowest level in 10 years, according to state and federal officials who this week released the the results of their latest aerial surveys.

Mountain pine beetles are still spreading across parts of the mountains between Estes Park and Leadville, but new activity was reported on just 31,000 acres, down from 141,000 acres in 2011. Since the outbreak started in 1996, beetles killed trees across more than 3.4 million acres, but it’s important to remember that not every single tree died.

In the aftermath of the infestation, foresters are finding that pockets of younger trees survived the wave of beetles, even in the hardest-hit areas. Continue reading

Climate: Bark beetles invading high-elevation forests

Whitebark pines are in imminent danger of extinction, and global warming is one of the most significant threats to the species. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Whitebark pines are in imminent danger of extinction, and global warming is one of the most significant threats to the species. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Researchers see threat to whitebark pines

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Bark beetles have already killed millions of acres of mid-elevation forests across the West, and warming temperatures are enabling the tree-killing bugs to invade higher elevations, where they are attacking trees that haven’t evolved with strong defenses to repel them.

Global warming is essentially giving the insects a huge advantage, as the trees, with their long lifespans, have no chance to develop biological resistance, according to researchers from the the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who report a rising threat to the whitebark pine forests of the northern Rocky Mountains. Continue reading

Forests: CU study traces evolution of pine beetle outbreak

Beetle-killed lodgepole pines dominate the landscape in many parts of Summit County.

2002 drought played key role in accelerating insect invasion

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Drought conditions in the early 2000s helped pine beetle populations surge to unprecedented levels, according to a new University of Colorado study that charts the evolution of the current pine beetle epidemic in the southern Rocky Mountains.

But even when the drought eased, the outbreak continued to gain ground, spreading into wetter and higher elevations and into less susceptible tree stands — those with smaller diameter lodgepoles sharing space with other tree species, according to CU-Boulder doctoral student Teresa Chapman.

“In recent years some researchers have thought the pine beetle outbreak in the southern Rocky Mountains might have started in one place and spread from there,” said Chapman. “What we found was that the mountain pine beetle outbreak originated in many locations. The idea that the outbreak spread from multiple places, then coalesced and continued spreading, really highlights the importance of the broad-scale drivers of the pine beetle epidemic like climate and drought.” Continue reading

Forest mortality declines across the U.S.

Pine beetles running out of food, spruce beetle infestation growing

Mountain pine beetle mortality is on the decline across the western U.S.

Spruce and fir mortality is on the increase in Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Tree mortality from insects and diseases has dropped dramatically in the past few years, mainly because mountain pine beetles are running out of food, according to a new report from the U.S. Forest Service.

But the next significant cycle of insect infestation has already reached epidemic proportions in the south-central Rockies, where spruce beetles are devastating stands of mature spruce trees. The spruce beetle outbreak has been especially intense in the San Juans, where the bugs have killed almost every single mature tree from the creek bottoms all the way up to high-elevation krummholz.

It will be interesting to see if the numbers go back up after this summer’s drought weakened trees across the region.

Continue reading

Summit County: Task force to provide overview and update of local forest health efforts

Learn more about local forest conditions this week with the Summit Forest Health Task Force.

Aug. 29 lunch meeting includes info on local logging and restoration

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local forests appear to be starting a comeback from a decade-long pine beetle invasion that killed up to 75 percent of mature lodgepole pines in the area, says Howard Hallman, co-director of the Summit Forest Health Task Force, which has been tracking the course of the epidemic and working with stakeholders to spur mitigation and restoration efforts.

The task force is hosting a lunchtime roundtable this week (Aug. 29) to update the community on beetle-kill logging projects in the area, as well as on efforts to monitor the state of local forests in the wake of the insect outbreak. The meeting is at the Mt. Royal Room in the County Commons and includes pizza, salad and drinks. Continue reading

Colorado: Forest Service set to close popular West Magnolia recreation area for logging and forest restoration project

Pine beetles and wind storms have created dangerous conditions around trails near Nederland

Logging to close popular Forest Service recreation area most of the summer.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Forest Service crews will tackle yet another patch of beetle-killed forest sometime in early June, logging about 330 acres in the popular West Magnolia recreation area near Nederland.

The area will be closed for most of the summer, as the agency tries to mitigate safety concerns associated with intense fire potential, and hazard trees weakened by mountain pine beetles, as well as recent wind events. Continue reading

Summit County: Forest Service planning big post-beetle reforestation push at local campgrounds this summer

Post-beetle kill in Summit County, Colorado.

3,000 trees arrive, ready to be planted

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After clearing thousands of beetle-killed trees from Summit County campgrounds and trails the past few years, the U.S. Forest Service is going into restoration mode. While there’s still more hazard tree removal to be done, rangers say they are ready to plant about 3,000 trees, including lodgepole, ponderosa and even some spruce trees.

The trees were just delivered on a couple of flatbed trucks, according to Sarah Pearson, a silviculturalist with the White River River National Forest. An inmate forestry crew will start planting the trees May 2 around the Peak One campground, as well as Prospector Point and Lowry campgrounds, Pearson said. Continue reading

Colorado: Bark beetle outbreak slows

Bugs killed up to 80 percent of mature trees in heavily hit areas; foresters emphasize removal of dangerous trees and proactive management to ameliorate future outbreaks

Most new pine beetle activity in 2011 was in Larimer and Boulder counties.

SUMMIT COUNTY —Pine beetle activity for the most part has died back down to background levels, with a few hotspots in Tenmile Canyon and in the high-elevation fringes of the lodgepole zone, according to results from the latest aerial surveys of Colorado forests.

The survey confirms that the bark beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically west of the Continental Divide. Forest and insect researchers have attributed the decline to several factors, including generally wetter conditions the past few years that have enabled some trees to repel the bugs. And, in some area, the beetles have already killed most suitable host trees, leaving nowhere else to reproduce. Continue reading

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