State, federal foresters will lead site visit to local forest health treatment areas; public access limited because of potential safety concerns
By Bob Berwyn
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the tour is NOT open to the public because of safety concerns.
SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will be in Summit County March 30 to visit a couple of sites where collaborative forest treatments have reduced the risk to municipal water supplies and to residential areas.
Along with U.S. Forest Service rangers and local officials, Hickenlooper will tour the Straight Creek watershed protection project, a collaborative effort by the Town of Dillon, Dillon Valley Water, Denver Water, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service and private stakeholders.
Read this Summit Voice story to learn what types of trees are growing back in beetle-killed stands.
The Straight Creek project was funded by several grants, including funds from the Colorado Forest Restoration Act, authorized by House Bill 1130. This project helped protect the Town of Dillon’s water source and critical infrastructure.
The second stop will be at the Mesa Cortina trailhead in Silverthorne at about 8:45 a.m. The Mesa Cortina project highlights thinning and fire breaks within the wildland-urban interface. The partners included Summit County Government, The U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service and the Mesa Cortina Homeowners Association.
Paul Cada, of the Colorado State Forest Service, and Cary Green, the timber management officer for the White River National Forest will give briefings during the Mesa Cortina segment of the tour.
Bark beetles spread across an additional 400,000 acres in 2010. The insects have now infested about 4 million acres total in the region, according to the results of the latest aerial survey, released in late January.
Perhaps because of prevailing winds, the bugs haven’t made a big move to the south and west of Ground Zero, which includes Summit and Grand counties.
But the survey results suggest that the pine beetles are hitting pockets of trees that survived the initial onslaught within areas that were previously hit. The secondary mortality is even affecting stands of young trees.
This Forest Service website describes findings from the 2010 aerial surveys, including a doubling of spruce beetle infestations in southern Colorado and Wyoming, where significant wind events knocked down trees across thousands of acres, making the susceptible to infestation.
In 2010, 150,000 new acres of spruce mortality were detected in Colorado and southern Wyoming, which is double that of 2009. The largest outbreak is spreading from the Weminuche Wilderness on the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests and adjacent lands.
Notable infestations are also growing on other National Forests in Colorado, including the Pike and San Isabel; the Gunnison, Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre; and the Routt.
Spruce beetles typically live in old spruce forests where scattered, windthrown trees provide habitat for low-level resident populations. Once beetle populations reach epidemic levels, spruce beetles may attack and kill spruce trees as small as five inches in diameter. The current epidemic in southern Colorado started in 2002 and is believed to be due to a combination of factors, including large areas of dense, old spruce trees, a prolonged drought and warm winters.
Five-Needle Pine Trees – bark beetle and white pine blister rust
A large number of high-elevation five-needle pine trees including white bark, limber and bristlecone have been killed by mountain pine beetles within the epidemic area for a total of about 233,000 acres. These trees provide unique and important habitat for wildlife, including a critical food source.
Younger surviving trees and future regenerating five-needle pines are at great risk from a non-native disease called white pine blister rust that is spreading throughout the region. A small percentage of our white bark and limber pines appear to have genetic resistance to this disease, so we are working quickly to prevent attacks from bark beetles while we collect their seeds. Preserving genetic diversity within stands offers the best chance for retaining this unique ecosystem into the future.