Task force: Time to take action

Mountain pine beetles will soon be swarming into town

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— The public beware: The mountain pine beetles are about to swoop down and start their spring lunch on your trees.

Ironically, the Bark Beetle Task Force said it's not the bark beetle that residents need to worry about right now, but it's the mountain pine beetle. The pine beetle has been attacking lodgepole and ponderosa pines in increasing numbers.

"That's what's in people's backyard right now," said Andy Cadenhead, environmental director for the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest.

Problem areas have already been pinpointed, such as the Sanctuary, Fish Creek, Burgess Creek, Hahn's Peak Village and from Strawberry Park on down to the base of the mountain.

The bark beetle was the species affected by the blowdown. Cadenhead said the pine beetle has no relation to the blowdown.

"(Pine beetles) have been on the increase for five or six years," Cadenhead said.

"There seems to be a correlation with drought cycles," he said, explaining trees are more susceptible to the beetles during dry times.

No one knows that better than the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corps.' Joe Foreman, who keeps an eye on the ski mountain's beetle problem.

"In the past, we'd see half a dozen trees infected," Foreman said.

"(The) last two years, we treated 75 trees. This year we're treating 150 trees," he said.

The Bark Beetle Task Force plans to create a map of where the pine beetles are threatening. The public will eventually be able to get the map off the Ag Extension Office's Web site. The beetles don't attack trees whose trunks are smaller than 8 inches.

In the meantime, the task force is warning the public to take action by the end of June preferably by May, when the beetles start to fly.

"When you look out and see those trees aren't green, it's too late," said Chuck Vale, the county's emergency manager.

Cadenhead said the U.S. and Colorado Forest Services and the extension office have lists of companies that treat the trees with pesticides. They also have a list of companies that remove trees that are already lost.

He said companies outside Routt County might be better prepared to treat trees for pine beetles or bark beetles.

"The counties along I-70 have been dealing with them for a number of years," Cadenhead said.

"They've already got the system down, and you might get a better price."

He feared that local Steamboat companies may not be as prepared to start spraying.

If homeowners aren't sure what kind of trees they have in their yard, they can call the state Forest Service and ask someone to come out and evaluate their trees.

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