Spruce beetle damage up 4th straight year
The infestation of mountain pine beetles, however, has subsided.
The devastation caused by spruce beetles across Colorado forests accelerated for a fourth consecutive year, according to a new survey, while the once widespread infestation of mountain pine beetles has largely subsided.
The spruce beetle was found to have newly infected 182,000 acres of previously unaffected forests, bringing the number of acres currently impacted to 409,000 across the state, according to the annual aerial survey conducted by the U. S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service.
The bug has caused varying degrees of tree mortality to nearly 1.6 million acres across the state since 1996, though still far less than the mountain pine beetle.
Two other defoliators of conifers — the western spruce budworm and the Douglas- fir tussock moth— also expanded their reach last year, touching nearly 340,000 acres of forests.
Damage by the mountain pine beetle, which has ravaged more than 3.3million acres of Colorado forests since 1996, has dwindled to about 5,000 new impacted acres, and the epidemic has ended in some areas as mature pine trees have been depleted, the survey notes.
The pine beetle infestation that ran across Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota has affected an area roughly the size of Massachusetts.
“The lesson we can take away from the extensive insect and dis--
ease damage we’ve seen in Colorado over the past two decades is the need for proactively taking care of our forests,” State Forester Mike Lester, who is also director of the Colorado State Forest Service, said in a news release. “The best time to take actions to address long- term forest health is before a major outbreak starts, and not after.”
The Forest Service continues to treat thousands of acres through thinning and prescribed burns as part of its wildfire mitigation and forest management efforts.
Much of the reason for the spruce beetle problem continues to be blowndown trees, drought stress, warmer temperatures, an extensive number of older trees and a high density level, the Forest Service said.