Colorado’s pine forests are under attack by a small, but prevalent predator. The pine beetle, one-eighth to one-third inch in size has become a hard-to-stop enemy for Colorado’s Forest Service.
“Once the Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle problem gets raging, it’s hard to stop it. The beetle’s do what (damage) they’re going to do,” said Rocky Smith, the Forest Watch Campaign coordinator for Colorado.
Granby, among other places, has seen the deadly affects that the beetle has on the trees.
“Just about every tree in Granby in some stands are dead,” Smith said.
There are a number of ways to prevent and remove the beetle, but these methods can cause damage to the environment.
“We have to be careful we don’t do more damage than the beetle trying to remove them,” Smith said.
The beetle problem can be prevented with spraying, but spraying may be difficult, especially on a large scale.
“It’s difficult. You have to soak the entire trunk until the spray soaks six inches in diameter,” said Tripp Addison, the superintendent for Denver Mountain Parks.
Some other ways Pine beetle can be removed are with solar treatment, where the trees are covered in plastic and the beetles are essentially baked out of the trees, cutting down infested trees, stripping the trees of bark to expose the beetles to the elements, thinning to reduce the competition with other trees and spraying as a preventative measure.
“On a home owner’s smaller scale, spraying in conjunction with thinning will increase the strength of the forest. It’s a multiple path recommendation,” said Chris Becker of Schulhoff Tree and Care. “The key is to do something before the beetle matures.”
Rick Caissie, planning team leader for the U.S. Forest Service, said that the Forest Service hoped to do some thinning.
“If some thinning is done before the problem is too dramatic, it will moderate the attack,” Caissie said.
The danger of ignoring the infestation lies not only in the death of many trees, but in future consequences.
“In a few years the trees start falling on the ground and the fire danger gets a lot higher,” Caissie said. “Antidotal evidence suggest that 15 years after an infestation a fire occurs. We want to reduce the chance of that happening.”