Most lodgepole pines likely to die | AspenTimes.com

Most lodgepole pines likely to die

Bob Berwin
Summit County correspondent

FRISCO ” Between 50 and 90 percent of Summit County’s lodgepole pines will probably succumb to the mountain pine beetle epidemic in the next few years, before the bugs eat themselves out of house and home, White River National Forest deputy supervisor Don Carroll said Thursday.

The massive scope of the insect infestation was one of the key points repeated frequently during the regular Thursday meeting of the local pine beetle task force. Carroll and others suggested the general public still likely isn’t prepared for the imminent landscape-level changes in the region. The mortality rate cited by Carroll applies not just to Summit County, but to the entire 2.5 million-acre White River National Forest. Those predictions, of course, could be tempered by unpredictable factors, including weather.

“If I’ve learned anything in the past 10 or 11 months or so, it’s that we don’t know quite as much about our forests as we thought we did,” said Howard Hallman, founder of Our Future Summit, the umbrella group for the beetle task force.

Hallman said the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the beetles shouldn’t keep officials from trying to develop a long-term plan that tries to take into account variables such as climate change and resource restraints.

According to Carroll, local communities, private industry and federal land managers must collaborate now to establish that vision for the “next” forest on a landscape level. Using the best available science, such partnerships can lay the groundwork for new forest growth that can better withstand disease and insect infestation.

“What do we want the next forest to look like,” Carroll said. “We’re not going to stop this epidemic in Grand County or Routt or Summit County,” he said, urging residents to start taking a long-term view of forest restoration, while focusing available resources to protect important resources from wildfire hazards.

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Other Forest Service officials said the agency plans to reintroduce fire into the regular pattern of forest management, so local residents should be made aware about how that might be implemented.

Staffers from the offices of several members of Congress, including Sens. Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar as well as Reps. Bob Beauprez and Mark Udall, brought the task force up to speed on the latest bark beetle initiatives under consideration in Washington.

A combined Colorado congressional delegation will meet with representatives of local and regional government entities next week to craft a unified approach to existing policy and funding initiatives addressing the bark beetle threat and the increasing probability of catastrophic wildfires.

Carroll said a key challenge in addressing management and resource needs is to change the perception of the Colorado issues at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. He said the state’s elected officials must speak with one voice to make themselves heard.