Pine beetles draw drastic response |

Pine beetles draw drastic response

Harriet Hamilton
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

FRISCO – Skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center will soon feel very different. The town has decided to cut down more than 9,000 beetle-infested trees around the center’s trails, many of which wind through forests heavily infested with pine beetles.The town’s 10-year management plan for the Peninsula Recreation Area includes clearance of nearly all the mature pines around the Nordic center’s Frisco Bay trail and the disc golf course. “I won’t deny there’s some big changes coming down the road,” public works assistant director Rick Higgins told the town council last month.

Tree removal will begin some time late this month or early in May, and the south side of the property near Highway 9 will be the first area thinned. Higgins estimates close to 3,600 trees will be removed this year.Despite its drastic impact on cross country trails, Frisco Nordic Center concessionaire Gene Dayton told the council he supports the plan.”The beetle hits us right where we live,” he said. “It’s not something that’s easy to take emotionally. I think we can make a big difference in the approach we take.”Once cutting begins, Dayton said, he intends to help the town in any way he can.”It breaks my heart to cut down old trees,” he said. “But our biggest concern is to preserve the quality of skiing over the long haul.”Councilmen Bill Pelham and Gary Runkle both expressed regret about removal of all the large trees .

“I don’t think we have any choice,” Pelham said.Frisco town manager Michael Penny told the council removal of dead trees was vital for the health of the recreation area.”Do we wait for the trees to turn red and blow down, or a forest fire?” he asked. “This is our version of fire containment.”The first three years of the plan will cost the town an average of $80,000 a year. After that, Higgins said, the plan will be re-evaluated. Nordic trail routes may be modified and even more trees may be cut down.”Every bit of 9,000 trees, maybe more,” he said. “It could be closer to 12,000.” The growing pine beetle problem throughout the recreation area prompted Frisco to hire a consulting firm, Western Bionomics in Steamboat Springs, to study overall vegetation health on the town-owned section of the peninsula. The report, completed last fall, divides the town’s 217 acres into distinct zones, depending on beetle infestation and general health.

The tall pines on more than half the town acreage, including most of the area around the Nordic center, were found to be well past maturity and under attack from the pine beetle. Many of the trees under 6 feet tall in the same zone proved to be infected with mistletoe, a destructive plant parasite.The consultant recommended removal of all mature lodgepole pines in this area, even those without evidence of beetle infestation, as well as removal of all pine seedlings heavily infected with mistletoe.As in the past, the majority of the removed trees will be hauled to a sawmill in the Montrose area for disposal. “Tree stands will be healthier, more resistant to forest pathogens, diameter and height growth will accelerate,” Higgins said. Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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