Pine beetles targetted by Summit town
SUMMIT COUNTY Last year, the homeowners in Blue River removed 200 to 300 trees killed by the mountain pine beetle. This year that number could grow by as much as five to six times, and the small town doesnt want to see the same trend continue.”We know if we dont do something this summer it could be substantially worse next summer, Blue River Councilman Howard Smith said.Armed with a $19,500 budget and the hopes of winning a matching grant from the board of county commissioners, volunteer students from Colorado State Universitys forestry program are marking the affected trees, which are all on private property.Once that job is completed, property owners will be responsible for cutting down their infected trees. Bobs Excavating, which does the towns snowplowing in the winter, will then collect the slash, chip the wood and haul it away.The town plans to use its budget to cover the costs of the debris removal. Felled trees cant simply be used for fire wood or other projects because the beetles can still fly and infect nearby trees, Smith said. Plus, dead wood on the forest floor creates a significant wildfire hazard. The town will require all homeowners to apply for a free permit, which can be downloaded from the towns Web site, before they remove any trees from their property.Although the town is asking residents to arrange and pay for tree removal by themselves, neighborhoods that band together might be able to get some help from the fire department.The Red, White & Blue Fire Department has offered to set up work days with neighborhoods or homeowners associations when wildland firefighters will help the group remove their trees, said Red, White & Blue Chief Gary Green.We dont want to become someones private contractor but if they schedule a work day in the neighborhood, as a partner in the community well certainly come out and offer our expertise, Green said.Smith hopes to have the project completed by early June before the beetles begin flying in July.Homeowners who neglect to remove any accumulation of slash, downed or dead trees or other flammable debris that creates a potential fire hazard can be subject to a nuisance penalty.Similar projects are going on all over Summit County. Among the hardest hit, Wildernest- and Mesa Cortina-area homeowner groups have also targeted hundreds of trees for removal.