Breck to fell pine beetle-infested trees

Journal/Brad Odekirk Pine Marten Logging tree-feller Jack Penndorf takes down a lodgepole pine May 11 on the Frisco peninsula. This particular tree, along with hundreds of others on the peninsula, have been hit by pine beetles and the Frisco Public Works Department has contracted Pine Marten Logging to fell the dead and infected trees, in hopes of curbing the damage the beetles are inflicting on the forest. Penndorf said he has been working on the peninsula for several years and considers it the crown jewel of Frisco. He thinks the town is taking the right steps toward dealing with the beetle, but recognizes staying in front of the beetles or even a few steps behind is a daunting task. According to Frisco Public Works deputy director Rick Higgins, "We are trying to diversify the growth in the forest and will be cutting around and saving clumps of aspen 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.

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