Aspen, Pitkin County eye part 2 of Smuggler beetle project |

Aspen, Pitkin County eye part 2 of Smuggler beetle project

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Another round of helicopter logging this summer has been recommended to prevent the spread of mountain pine beetles on open space owned by the city of Aspen and Pitkin County on Smuggler Mountain.

The proposal will go to a joint meeting of the city and county open space boards Thursday at 1 p.m. at City Hall.

A forester has identified 52 “brood trees” that hold live beetles. They would be cut down and hauled via helicopter to a central site on the mountain, where they’d be stripped of limbs and loaded onto trucks to be hauled off the site. The work would occur in June, before the beetle larvae emerge as adult insects and take flight, infesting other trees.

In addition, about 120 acres of open space would be treated with verbenone packets that would be stapled to trees. Verbenone, a natural pheromone, fools adult beetles into leaving healthy trees alone, sending the message that trees are already infested.

A similar project took place last summer on Smuggler open space to protect lodgepole pines in the popular recreation area. A helicopter was used to collect 202 downed lodgepole pines from the forest, and verbenone was applied over about 130 acres. That work cost $110,000, with the city and county putting up about $45,000 jointly, and local conservation group For the Forest paying about $65,000.

This year’s proposed project would cost an estimated $116,692, with $38,895 each coming from the city, the county and For the Forest. The sum includes $10,000 for public outreach and education, and $6,000 for monitoring.

In addition to the brood trees, 24 hazard trees on the open space have been identified for removal as part of the project. They are dead trees that pose a threat along trails.

An outbreak of mountain pine beetles has left large swaths of Colorado forests dead. The local effort is an attempt to preserve trees on the Smuggler open space. The 250 acres owned by the city and county abuts some private acreage; the landowner has also been involved in the efforts to prevent the spread of the beetles. The open space is also adjacent to Forest Service land where no work to prevent beetle kill is taking place.

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