Vail: feds to harvest beetle-kill trees |

Vail: feds to harvest beetle-kill trees

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” The U.S. Forest Service has approved a project in the Vail area to help stem the spread of bark beetles and make use of trees killed by the bugs.

The plan is to salvage 1,763 acres of lodgepole pines near the Upper Eagle River. The Forest Service wants to cut beetle-infested trees quickly so they can be used as lumber and the wildfire risk is lowered.

Experts say the trees are no good for commercial use within three to five years of dying.

Another goal is to quickly restart growing the forest.

“We’re trying to give a jump-start to rejuvenating the forest as well as reduce wild fire risk,” said Cal Wettstein, resources and planning staff officer for the White River National Forest.

Beetles have killed about 1.5 million acres of Colorado’s lodgepole pines. Drought and the lack of frigid weather that would kill the insects are believed to be contributing to the epidemic.

The infestation has been concentrated in five northern Colorado counties straddling the Continental Divide and has since spread to the Front Range and southern Wyoming.

The insects were first noticed in Eagle County in 1996 when needles on small groups of trees began turning red, a sign the trees had been killed beetles. Foresters expect up to 90 percent of the lodgepole pine forest to die over the next five years.

Getting rid of the trees after they’ve deteriorated is more expensive because the timber can’t be used.

“The most economical way to get the dead trees out is to get them on the back of a log truck,” said Jan Burke of the Forest Service.

The salvage project will involve extensive clear-cutting ” logging all the trees in the area and leaving large pockets of open space. Wettstein said the logging equipment itself, which stirs up the dirt and clears the ground, will help the new forest grow more quickly.

“They are going to start falling down eventually, and we’re going to have a real mess on roads, trails and campgrounds,” Wettstein said.

The project will likely begin next year and could take up to five years to finish.