Lodgepole pine trees killed by the pine beetle are removed in May from Steamboat Ski Area. Of Routt County’s 1 million acres of forest, a survey showed that an additional 13,000 acres of forest were impacted by the pine beetle in 2011.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Lodgepole pine trees killed by the pine beetle are removed in May from Steamboat Ski Area. Of Routt County’s 1 million acres of forest, a survey showed that an additional 13,000 acres of forest were impacted by the pine beetle in 2011.

Survey shows pine beetle epidemic slowing

More than 2,000 downed trees cleared from local trails

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— Forest officials say a 2011 aerial survey helps confirm that the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed after devastating 3.3 million of the 24.5 million acres of forest across Colorado. But they caution that the epidemic is not over, particularly on Colorado’s Front Range, and that the effects on forests will be felt for decades to come.

Of Routt County’s 1 million acres of forest, the aerial survey showed that an additional 13,000 acres of forest were impacted by the pine beetle in 2011.

“That’s a very believable number,” said Steamboat Springs-based district forester John Twitchell, who works for the Colorado State Forest Service.

He said a high estimate of the total number of acres affected in Routt County during the epidemic is 345,000 acres.

“We’re not showing a lot of new acres infested,” Twitchell said. “We’re seeing there still is some green and there are a lot more areas that did not see 100 percent mortality.”

The results of the aerial survey were released this week by the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service. The survey indicates that an additional 140,000 acres of tree mortality were detected across the state in 2011.

“The epidemic has spread into the Front Range area,” Twitchell said.

The mountain pine beetle began infesting lodgepole pine trees in large numbers in 1996. It drastically turned parts of the Rocky Mountain landscape red as the trees died. The epidemic peaked in Routt County in 2008.

According to a news release, areas of the Front Range, particularly Larimer County, continue to experience the highest mortality rates affecting ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees.

Efforts are ongoing to mitigate the dangers posed by the dead trees.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, $32 million was spent by the Rocky Mountain Region in 2011 to clean up, clear out or burn dead trees. In 2011 alone, dead or dying trees were removed from 275 miles of roads and 210 recreation sites.

The Forest Service continues to warn hikers of the dangers associated with the dead trees. In June, a 9-inch diameter tree fell on a 65-year-old woman near Granby. She survived but suffered a broken leg.

At Steamboat Ski Area this past fall, loggers began work on a project to remove 100 acres of dead trees. The ski area began logging in 2009, when there was an estimated 250 total acres of lodgepole pine on Mount Werner.

According to the ski area, logging related to the pine beetle epidemic will end up costing the resort about $500,000.

“The ski area is continuing their hazard three mitigation this next summer,” said Kent Foster, recreation manager for the U.S. Forest Service’s Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District.

Foster said tree removal would continue as funding is available. He said more than 2,000 fallen trees were cleared from trails last summer.

Popular congregating areas such as campsites, trailheads, trails and roads will continue to be the priority for tree removal.

“There is a lot of work,” Foster said.

He said crews are trying to keep up in areas that persistently have a lot of downed trees, including the Scott Run trail and other trails off Seedhouse Road in northern Routt County.

“Those are the places where if we have some money we are trying to cut the trees out,” Foster said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

mtroach 2 years, 2 months ago

Noone stays at a kegger once the keg is finished. Same with the beatles and trees. Let me guess, once all the suitable forest is dead...the pine beatle infestation will subside.

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

Colorado's forests are a dead and dying monument to the delusion of environmentalists and to the spineless mis-management of the USFS.

Both parties should hang their head in shame, if they ever get 'em out of their rear-ends.

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Christine Shook 2 years, 2 months ago

Lodgepole pine is an early successional pioneer species that depends on large-scale disturbances, such as catastrophic fire or an insect epidemic to wipe them clean and start again. A variety of factors, including drought, warmer winter temperatures, fire suppression and a natural cyclical outbreak of NATIVE beetles, caused this to be such a widespread epidemic. It's silly to blame it on environmentalists or the mismanagement of a national agency. Anyone who knows anything about ecology and it's interconnectedness to all living things wouldn't do that.

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

hokie, You just mentioned fire suppression as a contributing factor. Who suppressed the fires in the National Forest? Answer: The USFS Google USFS blunders and you get about 350,000 topics. Do you think they are all mistaken?

Stands of young pine trees that today grow where timber operations took place a decade or two ago appear green and healthy. Old growth stands are dead. Who fought to protect "old growth" forests using measures like spiking trees and chaining themselves to trees to stop logging operations? Answer: Environmentalists They "protected" the trees till they died. Then they "protected" us from "global warming" until it was proven to be a hoax. Then they switched to "climate change", a phenomenan that has occurred regularly for millions of years. Now they are "protecting" us from abundant domestic energy.

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rhys jones 2 years, 2 months ago

Since symptoms of tree death take a long time to appear, it would not surprise me if these numbers are severely underinflated. roach may be right -- the beetles will leave, when there's nothing left to eat. And new unemployment claims will drop to 0, when there are no more jobs to lose.

Way back in the last century, when I was still a sprat -- LONG ago, friends -- we went to a presentation in Yellowstone, at an ampitheater, about Lodgepoles. The Ranger said they call them the "widowmaker" because they grow to be about 80 years old, then die and fall over. Then a fire is REQUIRED to rejuvenate the forest -- their cones won't pop open and release the seeds unless under extreme heat. When fire finally broke out there, much later, they did just let it burn, and are now letting it recover naturally. It'll still be a couple of generations before your grandkids will see Lodgepole forests in Yellowstone again, like we did. (As usual, anyone privy to other word, please enlighten us.)

There's a massive fire, just waiting to break out here -- massive stands of dead Lodgepoles, all over the State. Our mightiest efforts can barely dent them. This dry winter can't help. One bolt of lightning... then say it hops from one place to the next, they being so close now... that would be quite an event. Now think of the oxygen a fire consumes. Could a large enough fire threaten the surrounding life -- or life it surrounds? Are we actually in danger??

Leave it to the highwaystar, to take it to another level.

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rhys jones 2 years, 2 months ago

Thanks, Jeff!! Are those little Lodgepole pups in the background? I think I see some Aspens too, which pop up soon after fires. Nice catch!!

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Jeff Kibler 2 years, 2 months ago

I figured you'd like that shot. As a six year old, Yellowstone was a magical place. Farting mudpots and black bears scratching the sides of a wood-panelled Ford station wagon. Them bears preferred puffy jumbo marshmallows.

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Kevin Nerney 2 years, 2 months ago

Many people I talk to around town say the same thing_"Glad we made it through another summer without a fire". This is the wrong kind of thinking. I think it would be better to have a 10,000 acre fire every year or two rather then have a conflagration of 60 or 70 thousand acres in one shot. It's not a matter of if but when.

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mtroach 2 years, 2 months ago

Yvb how would an asbestos forest burn? Isn't asbestos resistant to fire?

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Kevin Nerney 2 years, 2 months ago

YVB got a good chuckle out of that one!!!! Main reason I read these blogs, better than Leno or Letterman.. Another reason not to get rid of anonymous postings.. You know what that old bumper sticker use to say " For a small town there sure are a lot of ----__----"

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Christine Shook 2 years, 2 months ago

I am not a member of the Sierra Club. I have 6 years of education in Forest Management and Forest Ecology leading to a Bachelor's and Master's of Science. As far as the fire suppression goes, I was merely saying it was not the sole cause for the beetle epidemic. Yes, it is true that the Smokey the Bear Era was responsible for suppressing many fires that should have been able to burn through, but that could have also been a result of the negative public opinion of fire (smoke, not very aesthetic, etc.) and also urban sprawl and people building their homes in the wildland urban interface.

And no, I'm not high either.

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Christine Shook 2 years, 2 months ago

Rhys, you are right in that lodgepole pine can be a serotinous species (has cones that are sealed with a waxy resin and open only in the event of a fire). However, they are one species that contains both serotinous and regular pine cones. So, lodgepole pine does not necessarily need fire to survive, unlike Ponderosa Pine.

Symptoms of beetle infested trees, like many trees that are infected by bark borers, are very recognizable early on because of the obvious pitch tubes. So, the numbers may not be as off as you think.

And YVB, I believe in your first post you said it was the mismanagement of the forest service 'plain and simple'. Sounds like you are describing it as the sole cause.

In the end, the forest will be healthy and will be able to regenerate on it's own regardless of whether the disturbance was fire, beetles or drought. As you can see in that beautiful picture of the lodgepole pines regenerating after the 1988 fire in Yellowstone. Thanks for that picture, although I would say that is not the last living lodgepole pine in Yellowstone, judging by the young stand of hundreds of regenerating lodgepole pines in the background!

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rhys jones 2 years, 2 months ago

I think the caption said that was the sole survivor of the '88 fire, not the only Lodgepole in Yellowstone.

This forum got me curious, to do just a little research... and it seems the only subspecies of Lodgepole, pinus contorta murrayana, which does NOT require a fire to open its cones, occurs on the West Coast, primarily the Cascades and Sierras. Seeding is dense, leading to competition and much standing dead timber, awaiting the inevitable fire, (our variety) and assisting it to the tree tops, where it will jump from one tree to the next. Leading to the next heavy reseeding, and the cycle starts over again. Loath as I am to include links, I got much of this from the Wiki article on Lodgepoles, at

Mankind apparently had a heavy hand in the Lodgepole forests which exist today, and long before the Forest Service came along. Miners and prospectors in the 1800's would clear whole hillsides, for fuel as well as building materials, leaving much "slash" which subsequently burned, facilitating the emergence of the Lodgepoles in abundance, their cones providing the reseeding. Apparently man has been influencing the Lodgepole for hundreds of years, quite inadvertently. Quite an interesting and enlightened discussion can be found at

http://www.hcn.org/blogs/range/forests-will-recover-from-pine-beetle

We need that fire.

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Brandon Miller 2 years, 2 months ago

It’s a pleasure to hear constructive comments from somebody that has the qualifications, background, education and experience to back their statements. At times, off the cuff sarcastic statements are a product of “Google researchers” born out of boredom, black helicopter conspiracy theories, and misinformation, set to push an uninformed agenda on these types of forums. Hat’s off to Hokieintheboat for starting a real, genuine conversation.

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Brandon Miller 2 years, 2 months ago

This is why we should embrace people, and hopefully potential leaders like Hokie who make decisions based on sound science over reactionary opinion and political ideology.

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for the acknowledgement, Hokie.

Brandon, In case you missed it Hokie acknowledged the validity of my assertion that mis-management in the form of fire suppression was valid.

Hokie also gave tacit recognition to my other assertion, that environmentalists played a role in the pollitical wind-blowing and that their lobbying likely had the desired effect of not harvesting old growth stands which now are all DEAD.

Furthermore, I would call refusing to harvest timber in the name of environmentalism only to watch it die quite an "uninformed agenda" too.

Here we see two darlings of the left, a big government agency and environmentalists, both knee deep (if not much deeper) in an ecological disaster which has spread from public to private property.

The forest was FULLY in the grasp of left-wing radicals and that government agency when the s**t hit the fan, sir. And rather than rethinking YOUR "pollitical idealogy" and that which YOU choose to call "sound science" you instead choose to lash out at those who are as far away from this mess as east is from west.

Don't try to drum up the black helicopter mumbo-jumbo here. This has NOTHING to do with right wing pollitical bumpkins.

I stand by my original statement: USFS and environmentalists should hang their head in shame.

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rhys jones 2 years, 2 months ago

sled -- Much of the standing dead Lodgepole died a natural death -- old age or crowded out -- thus representing the future of the species, fuel for the next generation. It knows not whether it is on public or private property, and I would be reluctant to build too close to them, but that's just me. I'd be leery in too stiff of a breeze. Our mightiest efforts would be spitting in the pond, in any efforts to manage or prune these forests, they are so massive, and us so puny. They have their own method of regeneration built in, it starts with a fire, and we aren't going to fix or change that.

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rhys jones 2 years, 2 months ago

PS -- clarification -- when I said I'd be leery in a stiff breeze, I meant around Lodgepoles, which are famous for just falling over.

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mtroach 2 years, 2 months ago

And thalgard posts a strong argument for the elimination of the anonymous poster.

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Phoebe Hackman 2 years, 2 months ago

Yes, mtroach, he/she certainly is the proverbial "bad apple".

thalgard- Just want you to know, right up front, that when your comment gets deleted, I suggested removal and I suggest everyone else do the same. Really tired of people like you; absolutely childish remark and completely uncalled for.

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Brandon Miller 2 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, And I have a viable breading pair of grizzly bears, a wolf pack, and a pregnant wolverine ready for black helicopter transport to Routt National Forest... Some people over indulge in there own concoctions of Kool-Aid it seems.

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

On beetlekilled trees Highway says "...our mightiest efforts would be spitting in the pond..." This might actually be a wise statement, I guess I don't know.

What I do find ironic and humorous is that the same individuals, who would argue that trying to stop a little beetle is impossible, are the same people who presume to be able to AFFECT GLOBAL ATMOSPHERIC CHANGE.

Which is it? Can we affect global atmospheric change and make the sea-levels receede but not control a little beetle? The same people who are basically saying that a small portion of nature, on the scale of an itty-bitty bug, is uncontrollable, while all creation can be commanded from the oval office, given the will-power.

Now you tell me; who is "over-indulging" in their own concoctions?????????????????

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

Thalgards comment should be left alone. It does not offend me nor should it offend any of you. Can we please learn to laugh at this kind of thing?

Try to remember that "the hit dog barks" and let's all lighten up. Thalgard has occaisionally enlightened me and I would not be any richer for his absence. I consider him part of this family, even if that makes him want to hurl.

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Phoebe Hackman 2 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, sled, I guess. It's just the "mom" in me can't seem to let such bad behavior slide. But, okay, I'll take my cue from you and go with the dog analogy ... ignore the bad and reward the good behavior. Thanks for being more level-headed than me :-)

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for defending me Phoebe. You are part of the family too!

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Brandon Miller 2 years, 2 months ago

Sled, Just as soon as post this comment, be sure to type something right after. You're going to need to have the last word. Peace.

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exduffer 2 years, 2 months ago

It would be best if everyone read this from the beginning and then took a focused look starting on page 160(adobe) " V. Judicial Challenges to the New Categorical Exclusions." http://www.uwyo.edu/law/_files/docs/wy%20law%20review/v10%20n2/willms.pdf

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Jeff Kibler 2 years, 2 months ago

Sledneck, the Magnanimous! Who would've thunk it. Bless you, Buckwheat.

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

Duffer, I have tried thrice to use that link. Comes up as "broken" or "outdated"...

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exduffer 2 years, 2 months ago

uwyo.edu/law/_files/docs/wy%20law%20review/v10%20n2/willms.pdf Sorry this won't seem to post as a link, copy the above and add www. in front and it works fine.The Title reads as follows, THE MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE: HOW FOREST MISMANAGEMENT AND A FLAWED REGULATORY STRUCTURE CONTRIBUTED TO AN UNCONTROLLABLE EPIDEMIC It was published in the UWYo law review in 2010 and is the most informative piece I have read on the subject.

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

I think you listen to Hokieinthaboat because you know them personally and/ or identify with "HER" through your mutually intrenched beliefs. Beliefs you are defending by a predictable, pavlovian response... pull the lever, get a pellet... just like a lab-rat. The rat doesn't know or care why the pellet appeared or who provided it. All the rat knows is that to recieve he must pull the lever. To recieve accolades from your piers you too must continue pulling the lever, defending global warming and the almighty state from which you derrive your imporatnce. Whether or not it is real MAKES NO DIFFERENCE TO YOU WHATSOEVER,

As far as formal education goes I dont care if "SHE" has more degrees than a thermometer. "SHE" admitted that there WAS mismanagement and that there WAS likely pollitical influence at play. THOSE points, which I first raised, remain valid and unrefuted

Speaking of "our state university system" did you catch the latest from UC? A just released study that shows polar ice is NOT melting as fast as the tree-hugger-hippiy scientists claimed. It also shows there has been NO, ZERO, NADA loss of glacial ice from Everest and the surrounding Himalayas. NONE, ZERO, NADA!!

But I'm sure the college-educated producers of THAT PARTICULAR study are all wrong because it runs contrary...

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sledneck 2 years, 2 months ago

Empirical evidence is aquired by actual observation and experimentation.

If you don't know Hokie personally and you didn't see "her" diploma on the wall then how do you know "she" actually has the education "she" claims?

Whay if she is just shootin you a line of crap... you know, like you would say I'm doing????

I thought Obama promised to stop the rise in sea level. What happened? I just assumed that was fixed soon after he took office.

I guess he was too busy closing Gitmo to stop the oceans from rising.

And I guess he was too busy repealing the Patriot Act to cloce Gitmo.

But I guess he was too busy mongering a war in Libya to repeal the Patriot Act.

And he must have been too busy with that war to repeal the "Bush" tax-cuts.

Maybe he has been bogged down with the 62 other campaign promises he's credited with having NOT fulfilled according to Pulitzer Prize-winning Politi Fact.com?????

And you're right. What ivy league bedwetters call education doesn't go that far on me. My education was earned empirically, in the real world.

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pitpoodle 2 years, 2 months ago

And he must have been too busy with that war to repeal the "Bush" tax-cuts. Repeal? Remember, Obama Okayed and signed into law the Bush tax cuts - last year wasn't it? He is so full of it.

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