Vail Daily letter: Harvest the dead trees |

Vail Daily letter: Harvest the dead trees

Patty Henke
Carbondale, CO Colorado

What kind of forests will we leave for future generations? Obviously we want them healthy and full of life. The question then becomes how do we accomplish this? Some believe making it wilderness is the answer. However, we must think about how the forest may look 20 years from now.

The state of Colorado is losing its forests at an alarming rate. Some causes include the mountain pine beetle and different diseases of aspen trees.

Natural controls of mountain pine beetle include woodpeckers and insects such as clerid beetles, which feed on adults and larvae under the bark. However, during outbreaks these natural controls often fail to prevent additional attacks.

Extreme cold temperatures can also reduce MPB populations. For winter mortality to be a significant factor, a severe freeze is necessary while the insect is in its most vulnerable stage; i.e., in the fall before the larvae have metabolized glycerols, or in late spring when the insect is molting into the pupal stage. For freezing temperatures to affect a large number of larvae during the middle of winter, temperatures of at least 30 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) must be sustained for at least five days.

An important method of prevention involves forest management. In general, MPB prefers forests that are old and dense. Managing the forest by creating diversity in age and structure will result in a healthy forest that will be more resilient and, thus, less vulnerable to mountain pine beetles. Most mature Colorado forests have about twice as many trees per acre as those forests which are more resistent to mountain pine beetles.

The White River National Forest Service sells wood cutting permits for personal use to remove only dead trees. According to the regulations, vehicles are prohibited from driving more than 300 feet off the road. For cutting commercially, the Forest Service marks all trees that they feel should be left standing to maintain a healthy forest. Harvesting these trees are not only good for the health of our forest but also saves a healthy tree from being cut down somewhere else. I, for one, would hate to see any more of our forest look like the forests in Summit County!

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