Breck to fell pine beetle-infested trees
BRECKENRIDGE – Town officials are just about complete with a survey of mountain pine beetle populations around town.
Mountain pine beetles are a natural part of the ecosystem, infesting and killing weak and old lodgepole pines. The problem arises when the trees are stressed, as they have been in the past few years of drought, and the beetles threaten to kill large stands.
Such is the case in Summit County.
Although the situation here isn’t nearly as bad as in other places – notably Eagle County, where large stands of golden trees stand as testament to the growing problem, and on Ute Pass Road in Summit and Grand counties – beetles are getting a toehold in some areas.
The worst area of infestation is Ute Pass Road in the north end of the county. Another area is along the Frisco peninsula and spreading to the hillside overlooking the high school at Farmer’s Korner.
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Breckenridge is trying to nip the beetle spread in the bud.
The survey has established a baseline by which town officials can monitor the spread. And it also provided information needed to determine risk and susceptibility. Most of the infestation areas are minor, but the potential for spread is higher.
The good news is it is unlikely the pine beetles will fly early this spring, despite a warmer than usual March.
Additionally, the current levels of infestations are minor, and the town has acted early enough to have some impact on the spread of the bugs.
The survey has determined there are about 100 infested trees within the town limits, not including another 100 estimated to be in the Highlands and surrounding golf course area. Of those, 50 have been counted on town-owned property.
The only way to eradicate the beetle is to fell infested trees and chip them before the insects have a chance to fly, sometime in the next month. For every one tree infested in the fall, insects can infest another seven in the area in the spring.
The town believes it will cost about $11,000 to fell, chip and resurvey the infested trees on the town-owned property and an additional $5,000 to spray others to protect them from the insects. It will cost another $6,000 to treat infested trees on private property.
The town community development department staff recommends the town first manage its smaller infestations on town property, spray critical areas throughout town, notify owners of infested trees and provide some kind of support for them.
Once the trees are chipped, the town preliminarily proposes to provide free wood mulch, send larger trees to sawmills and peel others for construction.