Aspen’s Smuggler Mountain forest in flux? |

Aspen’s Smuggler Mountain forest in flux?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Forestry experts expect the mountain pine beetle to alter the landscape of Smuggler Mountain. If it does, it won’t be the first time the mountain flanking Aspen has undergone a radical change.

As a joint project of the Aspen and Pitkin County open space programs, the history of the mountain is being researched to document its ever-evolving forest. The effort is to include then-and-now photos and text by area writer Kristine Crandall.

“What we’re trying to do is kind of tell the human history and natural history of Smuggler Mountain,” said Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for the county.

To that end, historical photos of Smuggler have been collected with the intention of retaking those images from the same vantage points today.

“We found a few that go way back to 1880, before there was even a road cut on the face of Smuggler,” said Dale Will, open space and trails director for the county.

“What you see now is not what was there 100 years ago,” Tennenbaum said.

It appears the forest on Smuggler was once dominated by aspen trees before changing over to the lodgepole pine forest that covers much of the mountain today. The reasons for the changeover aren’t yet clear.

The lodgepole are now under attack by the beetles, which could decimate the forest and usher yet another change in the makeup of trees on Smuggler, a popular local recreation area.

“Forests are forever changing. It’s not the end of the world,” Tennenbaum said.

The city and county, however, are trying to preserve the stand of old-growth lodgepoles that exist on open space owned and managed by the two governments on the mountain. A second year of logging to cut down and remove trees infested with the beetles is planned. The effort will also include treatment of the forest with a pheromone that fools adult beetles into leaving healthy trees alone. About 120 acres of open space are targeted for the effort.

Bids for the logging, including use of a helicopter to haul trees out of the woods, were received Friday, but have yet to be analyzed, according to Tennenbaum. Two bids came in – from Ken’s Tree Service of Carbondale, which did last year’s logging work, and Global Loggers LLC of Grand Lake, Colo.

In addition to the beetle project, open space officials and a consultant are preparing a 10-year forest management plan for all of the 250 acres of city/county open space on Smuggler. Release of a draft of that plan is expected in June.

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