Fighting beetles together

Officials say dealing with this should be a community effort

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— Dealing with mountain pine beetle infestation should be a community effort, officials said Sunday.

More than 20 people, mostly homeowners who have beetle infestation on their properties, attended a community meeting Sunday at Steamboat Lake State Park's visitors' center. The meeting focused on what property owners can do to address infestation.

Mountain pine beetles are a type of bark beetle. Infested trees are a concern because they die and become fire hazards.

The problem is growing, said John Twitchell, district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service.

"I'm pretty concerned about what I see up here," Twitchell said. He said it is a regional situation and a problem throughout the Rocky Mountain west.

Mountain pine beetles have been around for a long time, Twitchell said, and there have been epidemics of the beetles before. However, officials have never seen the problem in this area on the scale it is now, he said.

Property owners should have someone do preventative spraying on their land, Twitchell said. If trees are already infested, they should be removed and trees that are likely to be infested should be sprayed. Trees that are likely to be infested are generally ones that are similar in size and age to those that already have beetles, Twitchell said.

He said it's possible for homeowners to collaborate with each other and with officials to address infestation.

"We've got to put our thinking caps on and come up with other solutions," he said.

Residents can also benefit from a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, said Bob Reilley, chief of the North Routt Fire Protection District. The plan allows community members to come together and receive the assistance of federal and state land managers.

Property owners must be proactive about beetle infestation, Twitchell said.

"We just can't expect somebody else to solve these problems ... you folks can do things too," he said.

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