‘Canadian approach’ protects forest around Aspen

Dead and dying lodgepole pines in Frisco, Colorado.

Summit Forest Health Task Force gets update on beetle battle in Aspen; preview of next week’s Forests At Risk symposium

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — An intensive — and expensive — treatment option for protecting lodgepole pines from beetles is showing some promise on a small test plot near Aspen, said For the Forest director John Bennet, speaking Thursday at a luncheon meeting of the Summit forest health task force.

“I’d call it a classic Canadian approach,” Bennett said, describing how groups are trying to preserve some live trees on Smuggler Mountain by removing brood trees and scattering verbenone to try and disrupt the breeding cycle of the pesky bugs that are tearing up huge swaths of Colorado forests.

Early monitoring results suggest the tactic is working, Bennett said, adding that the goal is to try and preserve about 60 percent of the susceptible trees around the popular hiking and biking trails on Smuggler.

Bennett also described his group’s involvement in a reclamation project, where biochar from local beetle-killed wood was used to revegetate a mine-scarred hillside. Biochar — essentially slow-cooked charcoal — is seen as one of the most efficient ways to sequester carbon. If it works as an ingredient for reclaiming scarred lands, it could help open a new markets for beetle-killed wood.

Bennett also previewed the Feb. 18 Forests At Risk symposium in Aspen that will feature Al Gore as a keynote speaker. The symposium is aimed at exploring the links between climate change and forest health, with presentations from leading scientists in the field, including Craig Allen of the U.S. Geological Survey, who will discuss changing forest conditions on a global scale.

Colorado-based Forest Service researcher Jim Worrall will also give a presentation on the future of aspen forests. Worrall helped pinpoint the sudden aspen decline phenomenon in the past few years, and while the sudden die-off has slowed, he says that, if climate models hold true, it’s likely that more aspen groves will die.

Canadian researcher Werner Kurz will discuss the epic scope of the pine beetle epidemic in Canada, where the insects have made an unprecedented move into Alberta. The concern is that the bugs will make their way into the vast boreal interior of the country.

We expect a number of new initiatives to come out of this … beyond that, we’re hoping to make a splash in the media. We want people around the country to be talking about this,” Bennett said.

Aspen public radio station KJAX hopes to broadcast at least part of the event live on the radio and streaming on the web. Click here for more information on that broadcast.


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