City of Steamboat Springs employees are in the process of removing hazardous trees on public property. If you see trees you are concerned about, that could be infected with bark beetles, notify George Hines at 879-4300, ext. 327. John Twitchell, district forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, also is available to answer questions related to the pine bark beetle epidemic. He can be reached at 879-0475.
Steamboat Springs City officials are asking Steamboat Springs property owners with trees infected by the pine bark beetle to remove the dead trees as soon as possible.
Employees with the Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department are mailing, and in some cases hand-delivering, letters to residents with infected trees on their property, asking them to remove the trees according to city law.
The letter contains a copy of Chapter 24 of the Steamboat Springs Municipal Code, which requires corrective action be taken to remove infected trees within 15 days of being notified.
"Our intent is not to bring the hammer down," Chris Wilson, director of the department, said Thursday. "We want to educate and inform people about how the pine bark beetle has moved into our urban forests."
Wilson said dead trees pose a fire hazard and can fall into creeks and rivers. Limbs also can break off, causing damage to nearby houses and cars. He said infected trees can cause the epidemic to spread to other trees that haven't been infected.
The department is keeping track of residents who have been notified and contacting them within 15 days to make sure action has been taken. They started hand-delivering letters Monday, and Wilson said they have issued as many as 20 letters.
Reactions to the letter vary, Wilson said.
"Some people already know about the threat and are glad the city is doing something about it," Wilson said, adding that other people are angry that the city is getting involved with private property. In response to the latter, Wilson said fire hazards are dangerous for the broader community and that the city wants to try to prevent any problems that might result from the infected or dead trees.
"The 15 days is to be used when we see a real danger and we don't hear a response in that period," Wilson said. He said he realizes many tree spraying and tree removal companies are backed up for a few weeks, and that it might be difficult to get trees removed right away. As long as the department is notified that action has been taken to remove trees, Wilson said, the department will not strictly enforce the 15-day period.
Bob Idoni, owner of RAI Enterprises in Steamboat, said the tree removal business is steady. He is scheduling customers two weeks out, and his company removes 50 to 75 trees each week.
"The cost varies tree to tree," Idoni said. He estimated it costs between $400 and $1,000 to remove a large tree that's close to a house, which is what his company specializes in.
Don Read, owner of Foxfire Fuelwood in Steamboat, said business really picked up in the past week.
"The late spring made for a slow start," Read said, "but with the hot weather, the dead trees are really starting to stand out."
Read's company is booking three to four weeks out and he said he expects it to get even busier as the summer goes on. His company also specializes in low-impact removal and said the price depends on the difficulty of removing the tree. Costs can range from $200 all the way up to $1,000 and sometimes more, he said.
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