For the Forest to fund Smuggler treatment
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Though Aspen and Pitkin County officials don’t see the need for a third year of verbenone treatment on jointly owned open space on Smuggler Mountain to drive off mountain pine beetles, the local nonprofit For the Forest is willing to fund such an effort.
Open space staffers don’t feel the verbenone treatment is necessary again this season, given declining beetle numbers, but don’t see any harm in it either, said Gary Tennenbaum, county open space land steward.
The application of verbenone will cost about $40,000, according to John Bennett, executive director of For the Forest. Verbenone is a pheromone that fools adult beetles into leaving healthy trees alone. It has been used in the past two summers, in conjunction with the removal of infested lodgepole pine trees, or brood trees, to curb the spread of the destructive beetles on the open space. In the past, packets of verbenone have been affixed to tree trunks; use of biodegradable flakes may be given a try this year, Bennett said.
For the Forest, funded by private donations, is willing to pay for another year of verbenone application to prevent a resurgence of the beetle epidemic, said Bennett in a letter to city of Aspen forester Chris Forman. For the Forest has also helped fund beetle efforts on the open space for the past two years.
This year, the city and county are planning the removal of about 20 brood trees.
In addition, a forestry plan for the open space calls for logging to create three clearings within the property’s lodgepole forest this year to improve habitat and spur new forest growth. Each clearing will be about three-quarters of an acre in size.
The logging is outlined in a 10-year forestry plan for the open space that won approval from the county Open Space and Trails board of trustees Thursday. The Aspen Open Space Board also approved the plan on Thursday.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife has urged the city and county to have the tree clearing done in late summer or fall, when it will be least disruptive to wildlife. The brood trees, however, are typically cut early in the summer, before adult beetles emerge and take flight.
The Smuggler forestry plan calls for various logging projects over the next decade, and for continued monitoring of plots within the open space over time to track forest health. However, the intensive study and data collection that has been done for the past two years in conjunction with the beetle project will no longer occur, according to Forman.
“It’s not going to be a visit-every-lodgepole-pine-to-look-for-pine-beetles that we’ve done for the past couple of years,” he said.
Nor will adjacent Forest Service lands be monitored for comparison’s sake, but the federal agency and For the Forest are working on a separate plan for the Forest Service lands on Smuggler, Forman said.
The city and county own and manage 234 acres of open space on Smuggler, a popular recreation area flanking Aspen.
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The future of the Aspen-Pitkin County airport took a significant step forward Thursday. Pitkin County commissioners decided 4-1 to accept the recommendation of a community-based committee and leave the runway where it is, a bedrock decision in the long process toward a new terminal and airfield.