Inmates clear beetle kill from campgrounds |

Inmates clear beetle kill from campgrounds

Ashleigh Oldland,
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

ARAPAHO NATIONAL FOREST, Colorado ” Two dozen state prisoners spent Thursday in Colorado’s high country cutting, piling and hauling dead timber to make campgrounds safer.

The U.S. Forest Service teamed up with Colorado Department of Corrections to clear the deadwood this week in Arapaho National Forest as the busy Fourth of July holiday week approaches.

Minimum security inmates cut down what forest officials called “hazard trees,” those killed or severely damaged by pine beetles. The dead trees become fire fodder in Colorado’s dry summers and also pose a hazard to campers because they blow over in strong winds.

“Everyone needs to be aware that beetle killed trees can fall anytime,” said Clint Kyhl of the U.S. Forest Service. “The work the inmates do in these areas will help keep campers safe. We are glad they’re here.”

The area covered by dead and dying lodgepole in Colorado has grown to 1.5 million acres since the first signs of the mountain pine beetle outbreak in 1996, according to 2007 data from state and federal forestry agencies.

Some campgrounds will be closed through the holiday, even through the summer, because of the danger presented by damaged trees.

Jack Lauthlin, a service man for Colorado Correctional Industries, said the Forest Service and the inmates have a mutually beneficial relationship.

“The Forest Service doesn’t have the resources to keep up with the pine beetle problem,” said Lauthlin.

Ingrid Aguayo, an entomologist for the Colorado State Forest Service, said the pine beetle, which is native to Colorado, kills old or weak trees as part of a natural process.

“In general it is a good thing for the rejuvenation of the forest,” Aguayo said. “Right now we are having a vast outbreak because we have a continuous forest with a lot of old trees.”

Aguayo said there is not much to be done about beetles settling in old trees, but it is important to clear hazardous trees for public safety and to develop ways to use wood from the dead trees.

Katherine Sanguinetti, a corrections spokeswoman, said she hopes the forest service will continue using inmates to clear trees.

Sanguinetti said work experience helps offenders in re-entering the community.

“A lot of these guys have never had jobs before,” she said. “They work hard, enjoy their time outside, learn a work ethic. They really want to be there.”

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