Forest Service readying people for beetle blight

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— The U.S. Forest Service is making sure locals won't be surprised when trees begin to die from an expected spruce beetle epidemic in surrounding forests.
In an effort to educate the masses, the Forest Service has organized interpretive programs to tell people about the damaging effects the insects will have on evergreen trees.
Every week, interpretive guides scatter themselves throughout the county at grocery stores, trailheads and campgrounds to talk about spruce beetles.
The beetles infested thousands of dead spruce trees that were knocked over or uprooted by a violent windstorm in October 1997 in the Routt National Forest north of Steamboat Springs. The storm and the forest area it damaged were dubbed the Routt Divide Blowdown.
The most recent information shows standing trees at the Steamboat Ski Area and near the Three Island Lake area have been hit by the insect and will die by next year, said Frank Cross, Forest Service ecosystem protection manager.
That confirms the July findings of 10 pheromone beetle traps placed throughout the Routt National Forest. The traps indicated the beetles were flying out of the blowdown area.
The fullest traps were near Floyd Peak, about five miles south of Clark, and the Sawmill Campground in the Bears Ears Ranger District north of Hayden. They collected several hundred beetles.
Officials are still gathering information on exactly how many standing trees have been hit this summer, but they know it's plenty.
"The spruce beetle is right on course," Cross said.
The interpretive programs inform people that large numbers of dead or dying trees will be seen in the Routt National Forest in the next few years.
The educational effort started after the 1997 blowdown so people would know where the downed trees are and what roads or trails are covered, Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Germann said. It evolved to offer programs that attempt to explain the spruce beetle epidemic as well as actions that the Forest Service is taking to deal with the insects and the blowdown.
"There's a need for information out there," Germann said. "We don't want people to come back later and say, 'I didn't know about this.'"
The information can be found just about everywhere. From community events to local meeting places.
"We've set up programs where we know the locals will be," Germann said.
From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, the program will be at the Clark Store and Fish Creek Falls. It will be offered at the Hahn's Peak campground at 7:30 p.m.
In addition to pictures and printed information on the blowdown and the spruce beetle, a guide will be available to answer questions.
The Forest Service also has weekly interpretive hikes into the blowdown area and weekly tree tours at the Routt County Courthouse so people can learn what trees are threatened.
Government officials also have formed the Bark Beetle Information Task Force. It is a compilation of representatives from the city, county, Colorado State Forest Service, Division of Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service.
The task force offers an opportunity for the government agencies to be informed about beetle issues and to work together to share that information with the public.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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