Forest hazards threaten more than trees |

Forest hazards threaten more than trees

Cliff Thompson

EAGLE COUNTY – The result of the widespread pine beetle infestation in Colorado is more dead timber in the forests and a higher fire danger. The U.S. Forest Service has been cutting down older and dead trees to reinvigorate forest and also setting controlled burns to mimic natural fires that sweep dead and diseased trees from the forests. Over the last 100 years man has suppressed fires, causing forests to get out of balance, accumulating more dead wood and becoming susceptible to disease and fire as trees become too old to fight back. Now controlled fires are being used more and more to help bring forest lands back into balance.Pine beetles are a symptom of how far forests are out of balance, foresters said.”It causes some serious questions about how we’re going to deal with this mountain pine beetle problem,” said Cal Wettstein, the district ranger for the surrounding White River National Forest. “You either cut them commercially and remove them or you watch nature take its course.”Part of that natural imbalance is visible on hillsides across Eagle County where pine beetles have killed tens of thousands of lodgepole pines, forestry experts said. Millions of acres across the West are full of beetled trees that are dry and dead and ready to burn. One area visible from I-70 is above Vail’s Intermountain where the hillside is covered with rust-colored beetle-killed lodgepole pines.”We’re just one lightning strike away from having a Yellowstone event,” said Chris Meyers, whose company one a lumber mill in Montrose. “One lightning strike and (Vail) will be changed forever.”Vail, Colorado

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