Diann Ritschard: Recycle beetle-killed trees

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— Wouldn't it be neat if all the new homes in the Yampa Valley had a little sign in the entryway that read "No Live Trees Were Killed in the Making of this Home."

That's what the local Bark Beetle Information Task Force is hoping for with its new "Blue Stain Campaign," designed to encourage the use of beetle-killed lodgepole pine in house construction.

When bark beetles attack a tree, they infect it with a fungus that causes the wood to turn partially blue. This blue-stained wood makes beautiful interior paneling, furniture, trim and other wood products. The blue stain does not affect the strength of the wood, so structural uses are not limited. However, people perceive that the wood is defective because it's blue, so there is not a big demand for it.

The beetle epidemic in Northwestern Colorado is expected to kill nearly all the mature lodgepole pine trees. The resulting dead trees are a serious fire hazard. If there was a demand for the blue-stain lodgepole, the timber industry likely would provide it. Local entrepreneurs would remove the dead trees from the forest and private lands, thus reducing fire hazards and utilizing a local natural resource. Using local wood also would save the cost of fuel and other environmental impacts of transporting lumber here from other places. The Beetle Task Force is urging the Yampa Valley to "Be Green, Build Blue."

Toward that end, the group is hosting several seminars in the spring and summer. The first, in February, will be a roundtable of local businesspeople who produce wood products, or use wood in their business. Other seminars for the public will follow in March, April and May. They will include speakers from other tourist economy areas that already have experienced beetle epidemics, blue stain experts and tours of local businesses using blue-stain wood. There also will be seminars with researchers, economists and others who have experience and ideas. So mark your calendars for Feb. 21, March 19, April 17 and May 15. Details will be forthcoming. For more information, call Marsha Daghenbaugh at Community Ag Alliance at 879-4370, or CJ Mucklow at the extension service at 879-0825.

The Bark Beetle Information Task Force is composed of representatives of the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County Extension Service, Community Agriculture Alliance, Routt County, Steamboat Ski Area, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, the State Forest Service, Routt National Forest and Steamboat Lake State Park.

Diann Ritschard is the public affairs specialist for Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests & Thunder Basin National Grassland.

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