Carbondale rethinks tree spraying
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE ” The Carbondale trustees on Tuesday took another look at their June 19 decision to spray pine trees on town property, and this time the vote went the opposite way.
Two weeks ago, the trustees heard arguments that the town’s pine trees had a high value and that methods other than spraying insecticides were not certain to save the trees. On that occasion, trustees John Foulkrod and Stacey Bernot were absent and the remaining trustees voted, 3-2, to protect 13 pine trees on town property with an insecticide called OnyxPro.
Tuesday, the board again listened to testimony, this time from close to 20 people, some of them members of various appointed town boards, some experts in forestry or pest control and some concerned residents. Some were opposed to spraying for various reasons, and others saw the use of a targeted insecticide as the only hope for saving the town’s Scotch pines, lodgepole pines and ponderosas. With mature mountain pine beetles expected to fly from the trees where they were hatched in a mere two weeks, the discussion took on more urgency.
Colorado Forest Service official Vince Urbina took a middle course, saying that the mountain pine beetle is an integral part of the Rocky Mountain ecosystem and that insecticides are but one weapon in the arsenal against it.
“Find those trees that are infested with mountain pine beetle and destroy them,” Urbina said. “That’s how you break the cycle.”
He described how trees that are healthy and receiving enough water can produce enough pitch, the sticky sap that oozes from wounds in the tree, to force the beetles out when they try to bore in to the bark.
“Vigorous trees have a chance of pitching out the pine beetle,” he said, “but I wouldn’t bet my salary on it.”
Calla Ostrander, co-chair of Carbondale’s Environmental Board, told trustees the severity of the current pine beetle infestation most likely is related to climate change, in that the sustained drought has weakened trees and the warmer winters of most recent years have failed to produce periods with temperatures of 40 degrees below zero, which kill off large numbers of mountain pine beetles.
“You’re not stopping mountain pine beetles by spraying 13 trees,” Ostrander said.
When it was time for the trustees to voice their opinions, it soon became clear the majority were going to be opposed to spraying.
“We can replace trees. We can’t replace people who are killed by chemicals,” Trustee John Foulkrod said. “I know these big trees are great, but there’ll be other great trees.”
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