Vail Valley: Energy building behind beetle battle |

Vail Valley: Energy building behind beetle battle

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” A year ago when Sen. Dan Gibbs told a fellow legislator about how beetles were hurting the pine forests, the legislator thought Gibbs was talking about the legendary rock band.

“We’ve come a long way in the last year as far as understanding,” said Gibbs, laughing. Now the bark beetle infestations that have left many mountain forests brown and dead, have finally caught the attention of Front Range lawmakers and residents, he said.

“It’s exciting for me to see people in Denver like (Sen.) Chris Romer really understand this, even though they don’t look out the window and see what I see in Silverthorne,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs is just one of many politicians, state officials, researchers, environmental workers and businessmen working to raise that awareness, find solutions and raise money to treat the forests.

The most recent meeting of the Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative included representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, the mountain counties, Colorado State University and Vail Resorts.

By working together, the group has supported pine beetle legislation, treated thousands of acres of infected forest, and raised money for treatment, said Jan Hackett, executive director of the group.

“Homeowners and communities now are rallying not just to log, but to also treat these acres,” she said.

The group’s members are from all over the state, but the goal is to bring the efforts back to individual communities that can act locally, Hackett said.

In Eagle County, helicopter logging of dead trees will be start n June in West Vail, said county wildfire mitigation specialist Eric Lovgren.

He estimates that anywhere from 750 to 1,000 trees will be logged this summer. The county and the Town of Vail will also come out to private properties to assess if dead trees are fire hazards, he said.

About 50 percent of the county’s lodgepole pine forests were hit, compared to Summit and Grand Counties at 80 percent to 90 percent. However, Lovgren said much of the infected forest is recently killed and still green.

“A lot of what was infected last summer is still turning red right now,” he said.

Hard hit areas include West Vail, Minturn, the Camp Hale area, Red Sandstone Road, Bellyache Ridge and Cordillera.

Others involved in the beetle battle weren’t from governments, but environmental groups, and businesses, like Bob Curfman, who builds log homes out of beetle-killed wood.

“Why are we cutting them down and burning them when you could turn it into something productive like logs for log cabins?” Curfman said.

The wood also can be used for furniture. The outside layer of the wood can be colored by beetle larvae, creating a dark blue stain that is popular for furniture, he said.

His business, 360 Green, is also investigating ways to use the “slash,” or the limbs and boughs of the tree, to be used as wood fuel, instead of just burning it. The sawdust and bark that comes from the logged wood can also be used to make ethanol, he said.

Meetings like Tuesday’s help him make contacts with town and county officials who could help supply the logs.

“The challenge is getting the long-term contracts from the governments to get the trees,” he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or

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