Beetle-killed trees in town

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Beetles have infested a pine tree in downtown Steamboat Springs, as well as pine and spruce trees near the Sheraton Steamboat Golf Club.

The infestations should remind Steamboat Springs residents to protect trees they want to save, said Routt County Agricultural Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow.

Because beetles have not yet hit the Steamboat Springs area in force, Mucklow said people are wondering whether it was worth it to spray their trees. His answer?

"I wouldn't quit," Mucklow said. "One of the reasons we haven't had a problem is because people have been protecting trees well."

It costs between $15 and $100 or more, to spray a tree, Mucklow said. The cost varies depending on location of the trees and how many can be sprayed at one time.

The Colorado State Uni?--versity Cooperative Extension Service recommends that trees get sprayed each year before the beetles fly.

Only trees that are larger than eight inches in diameter at eye level need to be sprayed, Mucklow said. Younger, smaller trees are not susceptible.

Spruce trees must be sprayed before May 15 because spruce beetles fly to infect other trees at that time. Pine trees can be sprayed until early or mid-July, when mountain pine beetles begin their flights.

Beetles can fly between one-half and one mile and travel much farther with wind, Mucklow said.

Jim Weber, public works director for the city of Steamboat Springs, said the city is facing beetle infestations on private property as well as on city property. The city has a lot of property in the Emerald Mountain area, including Howelsen Hill, and has been working on saving trees from beetle infestations. Already some trees have been infested with beetles, Weber said.

Spraying trees can be expensive, so city officials are looking at protecting trees along view corridors and important areas, Weber said. Other methods to protect some of the trees include cutting and removing infested trees.

"We're trying to manage our property within the budgets that we have available," Weber said. "There are some very large, old spruce trees in town. It would just be a shame to lose some of these unique trees in town."

The Extension Service and the Colorado State Forest Service help private landowners manage their forested land. That means officials with each group will look at a resident's trees and assess whether those trees are at risk. They also have a list of companies certified to spray trees for beetles.

For homes on large tracts of land, it's not feasible to protect every tree -- landowners have to decide which trees are worth saving, Mucklow said. For homes on smaller lots, many times a large pine or spruce will be very valuable.

Routt County has treated the mature spruce on its own downtown property and will continue to do so, Mucklow said.

"They're just not replaceable," he said.


-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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